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Lord Annan: My Lords, I shall not take up the time of the House, but I should like to make two small points. First, can we have an answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, about teachers? Are we to assume that all those entering the teaching profession will be so poor that they will not have to pay the tuition fee?

Secondly, I refer to the "double whammy" mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. If I had to choose, I would not, like the noble Lord, Lord Baker, exonerate students from paying a maintenance fee--although I notice that, with the aplomb of a former Minister, the noble Lord realises that that is a way in which one can somehow swindle one's way past the Treasury. The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, is entirely right. It is a great pity that we have to do these two things together. I would choose the maintenance fee as the fee that students should pay as it might induce some students to choose their home university rather than giving God's gift to the British rail system three times a year.

Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, I am opposed to the amendment because it strikes at the fundamentals of Part II of the Bill. I understand why my noble friend Lord Glenamara supports it. I respect him and the enormous contribution he has made to higher education and to education across the board, but I must say to him that perhaps the situation in which we find ourselves today is a result of some of the reforms that he made as Secretary of State for Education and Science. I say that because we are dealing now with an entirely different situation from any that we have had before. We have moved from a period in the 1960s when something like 5 per cent. of the age group participated in higher education to the situation today when some 32 per cent. now participate and when it is estimated, and hoped, that that participation rate will continue to grow. So we are dealing with an issue which is fundamentally different in dimension from what it was some years ago.

Both my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, referred to free higher education. There has never been such a thing as universal free access to higher education. As my noble friend Lord Desai indicated, part-time students in higher education have always had to pay their way. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, referred to the mature women who will have great difficulty paying the £1,000 tuition fee. I, too, am concerned about the position of mature women. I am sure, however, that the noble Baronesses will agree that under the current system many mature women--the majority of mature part-time students in higher education are women--have that difficulty. So it is not a fact that there has been universal free access to higher education.

Indeed, education generally has not been completely free. Many further education students over the age of 18 have not had free access to that education. Those

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who are concerned about the participation rate of those in the lower income groups should look at further education to see where the problems are. Although we have been supporting higher income families in higher education, those other students have had to pay for their own further education.

We are not talking about a level playing field; we are talking about some very complicated problems. Indeed, the problems were so complicated that when the now Opposition were in power they set up the Dearing Committee to look at the problems and to come forward with a report and recommendations. This Bill is a response to the Dearing Committee--or to some aspects of its report. The Government have not accepted everything that Dearing said--no government would--but they have accepted a number of important points.

Noble Lords have today offered the Government a different mixture of solutions. The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, referred to the "double whammy". Those on the Liberal Benches have said that they now recognise that the maintenance grants should go. Others have said that we should continue to support maintenance grants. There is no simple answer to the question.

What did the Government decide to do? They decided to give help where it was thought that help was most needed. So, they did not, as my noble friend Lord Glenamara suggested, offer a loans system or a graduate tax system right across the board. The Government decided that to try to encourage the lower income groups they would exclude them from payment of the £1,000 tuition fee. We are told by the Government that about 30 per cent. to 33 per cent. of the age group will be excused payment. The next 30 per cent. or so will pay part of the £1,000. One wonders whether that covers some of those whom the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, had in mind when she said that not everyone had a three-year interval between their children and therefore might have more than one child at university at any one time. If a family has more than one child at university and is reasonably well off, but not in the top echelons of wealth, it will probably fall into the second group and will be judged according to ability to pay.

The third group is made up of higher income families who are expected to pay the full £1,000. This afternoon some noble Lords have said that that is unfair because the parents are being means-tested, not the students. However, those parents will be expected to pay exactly the same proportion as they pay at the moment. I know that there are problems in a very few families. If there are problems--for example, parents may refuse to pay for their daughters because they do not believe that it is important for girls to be educated--those same parents would object under the present system.

4.30 p.m.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the noble Baroness said that at present only a very few parents fail to pay their contributions. Is she aware that the latest published figure is 43 per cent.?

Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, I am not aware of the figure to which the noble Earl has referred. I shall

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look into it. I am very surprised to learn that 43 per cent. of parents refuse to pay. I point out that part of the proposals that my noble friend has put to the House results in an increase in access funds. Access funds will be available to those students who suffer particular hardship. There has been an increase in access funding.

I ask my noble friend to look at the particular problems of mature students, because it is among those students that the deterrent is likely to be most effective. As to the deterrent effect, I ask my noble friend for the latest figures for comparative applications for entry to university. Applications to the university of which I am chancellor, certainly as of Friday last week when I made an inquiry, are not down but, if anything, have slightly increased. Although there was a drop at the beginning of January, I believe that the figures have increased considerably. I doubt very much whether the deterrent effect would be anything like as great as that suggested by noble Lords opposite. However, I should like my noble friend to clear up that point.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, time presses and I shall deal with only one of the matters that I wanted to raise this afternoon. The Government have themselves faced the fact that the £1,000 will be a deterrent. In the progress report on student support arrangements published on 19th January, they announced:


    "To avoid discouraging students who would have difficulty finding up to £1,000 before starting their course, the Government have advised [higher education institutions] that they should collect fees sensitively in the early months of the course, for example, by offering instalment arrangements to students".

Therefore, the universities which are already required to access funds and the hardship loan must also be prepared to enter into hire purchase-type individual agreements with each student who so needs it. It is higher education on the never-never. Think of the administrative burden and bureaucratic chaos that this could cause. Not least, it will leave the universities with no firm financial base for 25 per cent. of the tuition fees and hence no ability to plan expenditure. I believe that that is an indication that there is a real deterrent in this £1,000.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I hope that the House will take careful note of the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I believe that it is rather artificial to talk about fees without at the same time talking about maintenance. Two or three noble Lords have referred to that matter. I hope that my noble friend will take that into consideration when she comes to reply.

I have considerable sympathy with my noble friend Lord Glenamara, which is not entirely surprising in view of the fact that we share the same background and come from the same part of the country. I shall not today refer to some of the problems that the north east has faced over the past 50 or 60 years. I make the following simple point. I have the feeling--I do not believe that any noble Lord yet has the figures--that this measure may have a deterrent effect. I should like to know what

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the figures will be. I presume that they will appear in regulations. It appears that there is to be a means test of some kind whereby some people may be deterred from taking advantage (if that is the right expression) of the situation. If my noble friend can give some indication--I do not expect to have the kind of figures normally seen in regulations--of the deterrent effect, I believe that noble Lords can be assisted in deciding how to vote this afternoon.


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