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The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for his support for the order and in particular his support for the provisions to which he referred specifically; namely, the continuation of the arrangements for peremptory challenge and the arrangement for bringing coroner's juries within the statutory scheme.

My understanding of Article 21 is that that is the exception appropriate in a trial for treason. That is an offence punishable by death. I believe that that is the only type of offence which remains punishable by death in Northern Ireland. Therefore, this provision would not apply to a trial for murder where the sentence in Northern Ireland, as in England and Wales, is a mandatory life sentence. Nor would it apply to any other trial in which there is the possibility of a discretionary

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life sentence. It is intended to apply to the possibility of a trial for treason. I am glad to say that those are extremely uncommon and the more uncommon they remain the better for all of us.

I am grateful for the reception of the order. In particular, I welcome what the noble Lord said about the jurors' oath. That is the provision which has concerned me most and I particularly welcome his support in that respect.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am extremely grateful for that elucidation of Article 21(2). But if I understand Article 21(1) correctly that means that in a murder trial, provided that the reduction in the number of jurors is not fewer than nine, the judge may direct the continuation of the trial without the assent of the defendant. I believe that to be different in England and Wales where the written assent of the defendant is required if there is a shortfall. That may be a gap in the order.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my understanding of the order is as the noble Lord has just said. I do not recollect exactly the position in relation to England and Wales. I am being referred to the corresponding position for England which states:

    "On a trial for any offence punishable with death subsection (1) shall not apply",
and so on. Therefore, the information I have at present suggests that that is the position in England and Wales also. However, in view of the question raised by the noble Lord, I shall check and, if I am wrong about it, I shall write to him. However, my understanding is that the provision to allow the trial to continue at the discretion of the judge so long as the number of jurors is not reduced to fewer than nine applies in every case except where the offence is punishable by death which, as I said, will only be for a crime of treason. That would be a highly exceptional circumstance.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.10 to 8.40 p.m.]

Education (Student Loans) Bill

House again in Committee.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 13:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Assessment criteria

(". No subsidy may be paid by the Secretary of State under section 1(1A) of the Education (Student Loans) Act 1990 unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person by whom the private sector student loan will be made has ensured that the assessment criteria to be used in assessing applications by eligible students do not include consideration of the applicant's course of study or the institution he attends.").

The noble Lord said: We believe that students should choose their course and their institution on their academic, vocational and individual merits and not because a particular choice would give them a better chance of a private loan with preferential terms. The

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danger in that situation is that it would give rise to all sorts of opportunities for social and academic engineering depending, as it would, on the prejudices, preferences or the simple whim of a bank manager. For example, a bank manager might not like someone studying philosophy. He might consider that that is an unnecessary call upon the nation's resources. He might feel that he does not like lawyers, in which case he would be in remarkably good company. He might even feel that it is a waste of time for someone to be given a loan to study English literature. Similarly, he might feel that Oxford and Cambridge are not the places to be in and that everyone should be supported who is in the London School of Economics.

As we see it, the clause is, again, an anti-cherry-picking device. The DFE's terms of reference for the Dearing inquiry are helpful in that respect saying, as they do, that the committee should have regard to certain principles among them that,

    "there should be maximum participation in initial higher education by young and mature students and lifetime learning by adults insofar as this can be shown to be consistent with labour market needs".
Finally, the terms of reference state:

    "Arrangements for student support should be equitable and should not distort students' choices inappropriately".
That seems to me to be at the heart of the amendment that we propose. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: The amendment touches on a most important point and one which I am afraid no one in the current job market will be able to judge with any degree of accuracy. We do not know what the demand for, say, physicists or biologists will be in five or 10 years' time. In any event, who is to say that one very good student of English literature or history will not make a considerably better living than a very bad lawyer? If we start to make such judgments--or allow them to be made by someone else--we will be opening up the whole system to abuse. I support the amendment.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: Perhaps I may inform Members of the Committee that the banks are certainly making such calculations at the present time. When I was taking my post-graduate degree in petroleum engineering, I was constantly harassed by my bank, which was forever offering me more convoluted ways of getting into debt. I suppose that the manager thought I was a good bet. Banks do make those calculations. The concern which the amendment seeks to address is to stop them from doing it even more. I also support the amendment.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Henley: I am not sure that there is much more that I can add to what I said earlier in response to other amendments where, to some extent, we went through very similar arguments. Indeed, I would put forward the same sort of arguments on this matter. I reiterate what I said earlier. I reject the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, about bank managers. It is an honourable profession and one that I am sure will make decisions in the appropriate manner.

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Speaking as a lawyer--and I notice that one or two other lawyers are present in the Chamber--I must say that I rather resent the noble Lord's attack on lawyers. However, I do recognise, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, put it, that there is a distinction between the very good and highly successful lawyers, of whom at least two are sitting opposite, and those who might or might not have been called to the Bar who one might describe as being not very good lawyers. It is possible that banks might wish to make distinctions on that basis. I should stress that I am thinking from my own personal point of view.

I also note what the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, said about what I shall now call the "Dearing terms of reference". Those matters ought to be considered. As I said, we have agreed to consult and take note of the concerns expressed about the terms of reference; and, indeed, about who should be on the committee. However, I believe that that is a matter for another occasion.

All that I can add to what I said earlier is to say that we have asked prospective private lenders to include in their tenders details of their policies and processes for considering applications. We have also asked for an estimate of what proportion of applicants they might reject. I can tell noble Lords opposite that we shall look very carefully indeed at their responses in evaluation of the tenders. That is something that my right honourable friend and the department will take most seriously. If we are not satisfied, then clearly that would be a factor in our decision on which tenders we ought to accept.

Having said that, I can only underline what I said in response to earlier amendments. The amendment may be well intentioned, but I believe that it could prove to be counterproductive and unnecessary. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press the matter on this occasion.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, I should point out to him that I did not leave lawyers alone in my castigation; indeed, I also included my own subject as well as the Minister's. There are people who might even feel that they should discriminate against English literature and who believe that someone was wasting the nation's resources who spent three years looking at Shakespeare and Milton. I would not be among them.

I am relieved to know that the tender document will take the matter seriously into account. Indeed, I must study the document again and see what is said in the 471 grams of "Tender Mark II" in that respect. We have been concerned with the power of the private sector in particular cases, especially banks, to influence the free market of student choice which is what brought the amendment to the fore. However, we have aired the matter and, bearing in mind the fact that we may return to it if we feel that we must at a later stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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