§ Mr. Boswell
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list areas where local education authorities currently may exercise discretion in connection with higher education student awards. 
§ Mr. Wicks
[holding answer 20 March 2000]: Under the Education (Student Support) Regulations 1999, local education authorities (LEAs) are able to exercise discretion in three broad areas: eligibility for support, assessment of income and payment of support.
LEA discretion when assessing a student's eligibility for support is limited to specific circumstances relating to: the time limits for applying for support and its duration; the information required to assess eligibility; whether a student meets the residence conditions; whether support may be transferred to another course; and whether a student is unfitted to receive support. LEAs also have discretion in determining whether students meet certain conditions for receiving particular elements of support. There is discretion in determining eligibility for fee support when students have previously attended a higher education course or are repeating part of a course. There are specific circumstances in which LEAs have discretion when determining: eligibility for and the amount of disabled students allowances; the amount of care leavers grant for which a student is eligible; the income of dependants; and the maximum student load for which a student is eligible.
There are also circumstances in which LEAs are able to exercise discretion in determining the residual income of the student, the student's parent or the student's spouse relating to: the financial year of assessment; treatment of a student's income when payments are made as a result of previous obligations incurred; and determining which parent's income to assess when the parents do not live together. LEAs also have discretion to pay support for periods when students are absent from a course and in determining the method of recovering overpayments of support.