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Written Answers

Wednesday 23rd November 1994


Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: The Government's plans allow for around 1 million full-time home and EC students on higher education courses in the UK in 1994–95. An increase or decrease of 5 per cent. in that figure would change it by around 50,000. It is not possible to estimate the precise effects of such a change on public expenditure.

At current average unit costs and current assumptions about the proportion of mandatory award holders and levels of take up of student loans, expenditure on student support would increase or decrease by around £175 million. There could also be knock-on effects on social security budgets.

Assuming that unit funding through the Higher Education Funding Councils and the Department for Education, Northern Ireland is the same as unit funding through the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and that block grant to higher education institutions would change in line with student numbers, the implied change in block grants would be around £150 million—£200 million. In practice, institutions might be able to make efficiency gains if student numbers were increasing and there could be diseconomies of scale if student numbers were reduced. Changes in student numbers could also have implications for capital expenditure. The Government's public expenditure plans for higher education for 1995–96 onwards will be announced in the Budget.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education, is currently undertaking a review of higher education. The initial stage of the review is concerned primarily with questions about the size and shape of higher education. I know that the Secretary of State wishes to take fully into account the views of those who have an interest in the development of higher education and that she would be pleased to hear from the noble Lord. I am sending him a copy of the announcement of the review.


Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: Under the student loans scheme, borrowers become liable to start repayment of loans in the April after they finish their course or cease to attend

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it. They may seek to defer repayment if their gross income does not exceed 85 per cent. of national average earnings, currently almost £14,600. As at 31st October 1994, 43 per cent. of those liable to repay loans had been granted deferment.

At 31st October 1994, 94·4 per cent. of borrowers not granted deferment were repaying and 93·5 per cent. of monies due had been repaid. It is estimated that by the end of the financial year the comparable figures will be 96·1 per cent. and 94·5 per cent. respectively. The Department for Education's Supply Estimates presented to Parliament for 1994–95 show estimated receipts from repayments of £27 million.


Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what are the functions of the Higher Education Quality Council

    (b) who are the members of the Council

    (c) whether any changes in functions and membership of the Council are proposed, and

    (d) what is the annual cost of the Council.

Lord Lucas: The Higher Education Quality Council is owned by the United Kingdom higher education representative bodies—the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Standing Committee of Principals and the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals.

Its main functions are to undertake quality audits of the quality assurance systems of the institutions belonging to its constituent bodies and to promote quality enhancement in higher education. It also advises the Government on applications from institutions for degree awarding powers and university title.

The Government does not have responsibility for the membership, functions and costs of the council. These are determined by the bodies which own it.


Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why a low rating is at present given in university research assessment to the publication of textbooks and monographs, and whether they have any plans to adjust this rating upwards.

Lord Lucas: The next university research assessment exercise will be conducted in 1996 by the Higher Education Funding Councils and the Department of Education for Northern Ireland. These bodies and the assessment panels they appoint have the responsibility for establishing the method of rating research published in various forms. The framework for the 1996 research assessment exercise was published in June 1994 after consultation with higher education institutions and representative bodies.

I believe that it would be most helpful for the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is undertaking the exercise in

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conjunction with the other funding bodies, to write to the noble Baroness on their behalf to answer in more detail the specific point she has raised. I have asked him to do so.


The Lord Bishop of Norwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Grade 1 listed parish churches are there in England.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): There are approximately 4,100 Anglican and Roman Catholic parish churches in use in England listed in Grade I or Grade A.


The Lord Bishop of Norwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many parish churches in England received grants through English Heritage in 1993, and what was the total amount granted.

Viscount Astor: In the financial year 1993–94, English Heritage offered grant assistance of £12·459 million to 426 churches and, in 1992–93, £11·250 million to 325 churches. Assistance to churches is offered under English Heritage's church grants scheme and is open to Roman Catholic and Nonconformist churches as well as Anglican parish churches.


The Lord Bishop of Norwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total amount granted through English Heritage in 1993 to historic buildings in England other than parish churches.

Viscount Astor: The following are the main categories of assistance offered by English Heritage for the repair of historic buildings other than parish churches in the years in question:

1992–93 1993–94
£000's £000's
buildings and monuments 10·275 13·737
cathedrals 3·932 4·824
area schemes 10·163 10·851


The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice is now being given to family health service authorities who are receiving applications from pharmacists to dispense National Health Service prescriptions in areas currently served by dispensing

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    doctors, in the light of their reply to the Countess of Mar (HL Deb., 26 October 1994, col WA44) and their earlier assurance that the: "Regulations safeguard the interests of both professions and the services to patients" (Baroness Hooper, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, in a written reply after a Motion on the NHS, 15th May 1991 (Hansard, col. 1653)).

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): Family health services authorities continue to be advised to process applications from pharmacists wishing to dispense National Health Service prescriptions in accordance with the NHS (Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 1992 (as amended).


Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to complete their review of the Department of Health Circular HM(71)90.

Baroness Cumberlege: We are planning to issue a draft circular for consultation in the New Year with a view to issuing the final version in the spring.


Lord Ironside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (1) how many x-ray mammography facilities are operating at present in the United Kingdom;

    (2) how many of them are located in (a) England and Wales

    (b) Northern Ireland and (c) Scotland; and

    (3) what proportion of them, in each case, are operated privately.

Baroness Cumberlege: This information is not available centrally.


Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the likely cost of restoring the right to housing benefit to students; and

    What is the likely cost of restoring to students the right to income support during the long vacation.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): This information is not available and can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

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