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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I wish to raise one point in relation to the Russian diplomatic initiative to which the Minister referred. While the Russians may have followed the letter of the United Nations sanctions as regards trade, are the Government aware that the Russians have over the past two years given a great deal of technical assistance to the Iraqis in the identification of major new oil reserves and their potential development? Is the Minister further aware that the return for this assistance will come with the ending of sanctions? Do the Government recognise that we should at least bear this in mind in assessing the role of the Russians in negotiating for a solution? It may be that it influences for the good; it may be that it does not.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are aware of the points the noble Lord raises, but any Russia-Iraq deals have been essentially bilateral. They are not relevant to the United Kingdom or to the Security Council. I have made it clear that we shall try to pursue a resolution of this crisis through all diplomatic channels. If there are diplomatic channels through Russia that can be used, that is infinitely preferable to the military options which have been alluded to this afternoon.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I am sure the whole House subscribes to the Minister's description of Saddam Hussein and I am sure the whole House would be happy to see him deposed. But I think the whole House, too, would welcome the note of caution that was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. We have to think ahead. If Saddam Hussein calls our bluff, do we then proceed? Supposing we have exhausted all the diplomatic options, does the Minister believe that a process of bombing Iraq will achieve our objective? What is our objective? Our objective is our ability to examine the production of destructive weapons in Iraq. Does the Minister really believe that the military option will achieve that objective? It is much more likely to achieve a general conflagration in the Middle East, because the bombing of Iraq will inevitably rally substantial Arab support. Therefore, let us do everything humanly possible--I welcome her assurance that she will pursue diplomatic channels--but let us anticipate some of the consequences of the action we are threatening this afternoon.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I assure the House again that Her Majesty's Government will examine, as the noble Lord said, everything humanly possible to avoid the military option. However, we have to remember that Saddam Hussein could be described as a classic bully. The problem with bullies is that if one disengages too soon

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they do not step back. They go on with their objective, which may in the end be very much worse than confronting them at an appropriate moment.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House--

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am sorry but the House has agreed that discussion on Statements should not exceed 20 minutes after the Front Bench speakers.

Teaching and Higher Education Bill [H.L.]

5.34 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 24 [Further provisions as to time off for study or training]:

[Amendment No. 132A not moved.]

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Orders and regulations]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 133:

Page 22, line 27, leave out ("section 16(5))") and insert ("subsection (2A) below)").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 135 and 136. The amendments all hang together. We now return to a theme which became familiar on the first day of the Committee stage. I refer to the skeletal nature of the Bill and the amount of flesh that is to be put on the bones by way of regulations.

On the first day of Committee the Minister explained that we were having to do it this way round because it was desirable to take the legislative slot in the parliamentary programme, to present the Bill at the earliest opportunity and to carry out the necessary consultation at best consecutive with the legislative process and perhaps some of it after the legislative process. He said that, therefore, the regulations could not be made until the consultation had been completed. I hope that is an accurate paraphrase of the position. Concern has been expressed throughout the Committee stage about the apparent lack of opportunity to discuss the flesh that is to be put on the bones. The purpose of these amendments is simply to ask that those regulations come back to Parliament and that we have a chance to look at them again.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in replying to one of the many points made, described this as a cumbersome process. I am not at all sure that it is a cumbersome process. It is an important process, cumbersome or not, and one that we should return to. Otherwise, we are simply being asked to give the Government a blank cheque on what is a skeletal Bill. Others with much more parliamentary experience than I have said that it is the most skeletal Bill they have seen in their time in Parliament.

Amendment No. 133 paves the way for Amendment No. 135. Clause 1(3) deals with the regulations governing the general teaching council, which was a

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matter of great concern to us on the first day of the Committee stage. Clause 5(1) deals with regulations the Minister may make giving additional functions to the GTC, which was again a matter of great concern to us. Clause 13(1) deals with regulations governing the induction period for newly-trained teachers, another subject of discussion on the first day of Committee. Clause 16 deals with the regulations concerning student loans and grants, a matter which I am sure is fresh in all your Lordships' minds.

I acknowledge straight away that the wording of Amendment No. 136 may need to be tightened up as I recognise that regulations are made by the Secretary of State. Indeed, there is a definition to that effect in the Bill. What we are trying to get at here--I am sure the intention is understood--is that the powers should lie with the general teaching council to decide on a whole range of matters--those we debated on the first day. If the Minister is able to accept our intention I am sure we can find an acceptable form of words to put that into practice.

This is a return to a familiar theme. We seek to give this House and another place an opportunity to look at the important and substantial flesh that still needs to be put on the bones of this skeletal Bill. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): I have to point out that if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 134.

Earl Russell: My late noble friend Lady Seear used to describe widely-drafted regulation-making powers as clauses saying that the Secretary of State may do whatever he likes. There is substance in that description. The clauses to which the amendments of my noble friend Lord Tope are addressed have a very widely drafted power. For example, Clause 5(1) states,

    "The Secretary of State may by order confer or impose on the Council such additional functions as he considers they may appropriately discharge in conjunction with any of their other functions under this Chapter".

Secretaries of State have considered many things in their time and some, shall we say, are a little unexpected. While the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments may describe something as an, "unexpected use of power", which is a valuable provision, I have known regulations carried in this Chamber despite such a finding from the joint committee. Therefore, it is important that we should look at what the Secretary of State does with these powers.

It is often said that, under the negative resolution procedure, Members of this House can put down a Prayer and scrutinise the Instrument. That happens much more often in this House than it does in another place. We should remember that any regulations should be properly scrutinised in both Houses. I have also known occasions in this House when it has proved impossible to get a Prayer on regulations debated simply because

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there was not time. That is regrettable, but it happens. I believe that my noble friend has moved an important amendment and I am very happy to support it.

Baroness Blatch: I support this amendment. There is a plethora of advice about the powers to which the Government refer and claim to use in order to introduce tuition fees. It is questionable. So far we have had debates at Committee stage on false premises.

While the Government claim that Section 1(5) of the 1962 Act allows student or parental resources to be taken into account in making an award to a student, that section does not authorise the imposition of fees. As I understand it, Clause 18 of the Bill does that. That has never been divulged by the noble Baroness or the Minister. Clause 18(4) empowers the Government to force institutions to introduce fees at a specified level. Of itself the clause does not create a power to levy fees, but goes on to assume that higher education institutions already have the power to charge fees.

Therefore, the question is whether the Government have sufficient powers to make exemptions for those such as gap-year students to whom they undertook initially to apply the system of student support. I believe that the Government's difficulty is that Clause 16 does not provide an obvious route to make such exemptions. Clause 18(5) shows the level of fees controlled by the maximum amount of the grant. Under Clause 16(2)(b) students under the old system are entitled to a grant that covers any existing fee, plus a student maintenance award.

If the fee is set at £1,000, then the amount would be insufficient to keep the Government's promise to gap-year students. If the maximum grant is increased to keep the promise, then the level of the fee goes above that which the Government have announced.

It is our understanding--because we shall continue to take advice about this matter--that through the promise to the gap-year students the Government could have changed the structure of the Bill by breaking the link between the maximum grant and the prescribed fee. It is interesting to note that that link neatly achieves a number of objectives simultaneously, including the abolition of the maintenance grant, the imposition of the fee and the prevention of top-up fees. It is understandable and, I suspect, was why the Government were reluctant to adopt a more explicit structure that would have allowed extensive debate on each policy objective. We have not had an opportunity to discuss the policy objectives and that has caused great frustration.

Political policy proposals to abolish maintenance grants completely and to introduce tuition fees are a subject that should have been discussed in this and in the other place in terms of the policies they represent. Because of the misunderstanding, there should be an opportunity to have this part of the Bill recommitted. Parliament must have had in mind that any tuition fees payable by students to higher education institutions in 1962--

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