§ Mr. Welsh
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will introduce measures to help students over the age of 50 years by(a) the provision of grants, (b) the waiving of tuition fees and (c) extending the upper age limit of eligibility for student loans; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Dr. Howells
Full-time students currently in higher education who were aged over 50 at the start of their course are eligible for free tuition and for a means tested grant towards their living costs and will continue to be so for the duration of their courses. Those aged 50 and over who begin courses in the academic year 1998–99 will also be eligible for a grant at a reduced rate for that year only.
Under the new arrangements applying to entrants from 1998–99 onwards, all students, irrespective of their age, will be eligible to receive means-related help towards their contribution to tuition costs. We have no plans to extend the eligibility for loans to those aged 50 and over for 1998–99, but intend to review the eligibility requirements for 1999–2000 and subsequent years when grants will no longer be available. The recent consultation paper on lifelong learning, "The Learning Age", invited views on extending loans to those in their early 50s who wish to enter higher education, for example, to retrain following redundancy. Final decisions will be taken in the light of the responses to that consultation.