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Lord Henley: I will ensure that my colleagues in the department, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, note what my noble friend has had to say. There is so far that I can go in terms of looking at things, and I certainly think there are further discussions my noble friend and I can have between this stage and Report stage. But I have to say to my noble friend that I do not think that parliamentary scrutiny before the signing of the contract is something I could offer as a realistic hope. Whether there might be some greater degree of scrutiny, something beyond a departmental report, that I can consider is another matter, although a departmental report is obviously a public document. Whether my noble friend will accept that and be prepared to consider on this occasion withdrawing his amendment is a matter for him. I leave it at that.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: Is it really impossible and unheard of for contracts to be negotiated and made conditional upon the approval of Parliament, which is going to pay?

Lord Henley: It would constitutionally be very, very unusual.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I accept what my noble friend has said. But please will he not even consider for one moment that enshrining the conclusions reached with the private sector institutions in something so pedestrian as a departmental report, which neither House of Parliament could think of devoting time to debate, would be inadequate? I hope he will dismiss that totally from his mind.

Lord Henley: I do not take quite the same view as my noble friend about departmental annual reports. I thought what I said earlier in response to his invitation to me to intervene would have been sufficient--that I would consider whether something a little more than a departmental annual report was sufficient.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: The mere mention of a departmental annual report brings it down to a measure

12 Mar 1996 : Column 788

and a level which I find totally inadequate. Until my noble friend makes it quite clear he is not suggesting that something just marginally above the level of a departmental annual report would be sufficient, until he dismisses that idea, I must say I would be very unhappy indeed. His offer now really has to be that the Government will put before Parliament a full report of what they have done. I would accept that. But you cannot say we are going to sign this subject to Parliament's will. My minimum requirement is that there must be a special report to Parliament. It should have nothing to do with a departmental annual report. There should be a special report to Parliament setting out the precise terms and exactly what has happened. There will then be an opportunity for both Houses of Parliament to express their views as to whether what has been done is acceptable.

Lord Henley: I am not sure that I can go much further to help my noble friend. I make no promises from the Dispatch Box, but I made it clear that I would consider whether we could go further. My noble friend will have to decide whether he accepts my word that I and my right honourable friend will be prepared to consider whether we can go further. However, I can make no promise beyond that.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I am very sorry that that is the case. It is not a question of whether I accept my noble friend's word. I always accept it without difficulty. I am worried about the constraints under which he is acting. If he cannot now accept that Parliament must have a chance to review the conclusions which have been reached in its name after the signing of a contract (I do not say that that should be before the signing of a contract) then I do not see that I have any alternative but to take the opinion of the Committee.

6.21 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81; Not-Contents, 109.

Division No. 3


Addington, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Barnett, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Brookes, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Butterfield, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Chorley, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crook, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
David, B.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Glasgow, E.
Glenamara, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Gregson, L.
Grey, E.
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harrowby, E.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kilmarnock, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Kirkwood, L.
Lawrence, L.
Lockwood, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Nicol, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peston, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. [Teller.]
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Ripon, Bp.
Rochester, L.
Russell, E.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seear, B.
Sewel, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walton of Detchant, L.
White, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.


Abercorn, D.
Abinger, L.
Addison, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Arran, E.
Bethell, L.
Blake, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Caithness, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Coleridge, L.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dilhorne, V.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elles, B.
Ferrers, E.
Finsberg, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Gisborough, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Hardwicke, E.
Harlech, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Hesketh, L.
Holderness, L.
Hooper, B.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
Kingsland, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Layton, L.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
[Lord Chancellor.]
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Marlesford, L.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Peel, E.
Rankeillour, L.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shrewsbury, E.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Swinfen, L.
Tebbit, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Wilcox, B.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.
Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12 Mar 1996 : Column 790

6.30 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 13, at end insert--
("( ) The Secretary of State shall require any person to whom subsidy is to be paid who refuses to make a private sector student loan to an eligible student to provide the student with a statement of reasons for the refusal."").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to reopen an inconclusive and distinctly unsatisfactory debate which took place in Standing Committee B of another place on 19th December last, at cols. 104 and following of the Official Report, on the subject of privacy and credit rating for students seeking loans.

Creditworthiness is an essential virtue in this monetary age. Members of the Committee may have seen on television last night a documentary by that very agreeable company Granada Television on the ease with which one person can assume the identity of another. An entirely innocent young woman, Susan Cobb, had her identity stolen by a drug dealer who obtained a copy of her birth certificate. Miss Cobb knew nothing of that until she was refused credit by her bank. So also were her parents because the address had been blacklisted and so was everyone living at it. This went on and she was deemed not to be creditworthy even after the impostor was caught, tried, found guilty, sentenced and in prison. Creditworthiness is a vitally important thing that we have to preserve, certainly more than virginity in this difficult age.

A student is forced to seek a loan. He or she has no choice. You cannot live on a maintenance grant alone. You cannot live on a maintenance grant plus your earnings as a barperson or a sweeper-up of floors. You need to have the facility of a loan if you are going to do anything like justice to the academic demands of the course on which you are engaged. A student is forced to seek a loan and he may endanger his creditworthiness with no reason whatever given. It is that which seems to us unjust. That is the reason for bringing forward the amendment. I hope that the Minister will explain why this statement should not be given to a student. I hope that he will explain more fully how the ombudsman can operate. I hope that he will accept the amendment.

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