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Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Sewel: My Lords, that tells us everything! I quote the noble Viscount's words again:


We are getting some weasel words about wait and see now. We shall wait to see what happens, and noble Lords opposite can wait to see what happens too. This is democracy. It is the House at the other end of the building that is democratically elected and that has

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considered this issue, has thought again and has sent it back to your Lordships' House. That House will most likely think again, but how many times is it right and proper for an unelected Chamber to reach the stage of defying the will of the elected Chamber?

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, would it not be more proper--

Earl Russell: My Lords--

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I shall answer the two, but I prefer them one at a time.

Earl Russell: My Lords, it is perfectly clear that Members of another place the first time misunderstood the question we intended to ask. They believed that we were asking a question involving £27 million; we were asking a question involving £2 million. We now wish to ask another place to think about the question we really wish to ask.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, is that the end of it?

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I merely wish the Minister to use the proper words about the other place. They do not think about it; they respond.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I shall make sure that my colleagues in another place are aware of that comment. As I said, the Government rejoice in the diversity of education provision in the United Kingdom. We recognise that in some circumstances diversity of itself can, and does, produce anomalies. We have tackled those anomalies. We have followed the advice of Garrick and Dearing and dealt with the anomaly of the fourth year for Scottish students. Far from removing an anomaly the proposition we are faced with today would create an even greater anomaly. On grounds of policy and on grounds of the proper role and function of your Lordships' House, I invite noble Lords to reject these amendments.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I hope I may ask him a question on a matter which he did not deal with in the debate. There has been reference to the unfortunate political timing of the discrimination as regards fees between Northern Irish and Irish students and between English and other European students. The Minister did not cover that. If the House does not feel there is time to do so, I accept that, but I should have liked the Minister to cover that point.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, it is important that on any matter relating to Northern Ireland at this time we weigh our words carefully. I shall try to do that. It is clear that there is a major difference as regards the way students coming from the Irish Republic will be treated. There is not a great number of those students. As I said, the total number in Scottish universities from the whole of the European Union is 354. There are clearly many more

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students from Northern Ireland. They will be covered in the same way as students from England and Wales. I think that is fair and equitable.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I must start by saying that I have some sympathy with the predicament that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, finds himself in as I can recall a number of occasions when I spoke from that Dispatch Box in the teeth of opposition from the main Opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, the Cross Benches, the Bishops' Bench and from my own Back Benches. My only advice to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel--which I have to say I did not always take myself--is to give in gracefully because otherwise he will have to give in slowly and probably before the courts.

However, I was not in the least convinced by the argument despite the noble Lord's best endeavours. I noticed that he had changed the argument about the one year and two years in secondary education. He had changed it from the position in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who at least came to his defence, which stated that Scottish students have had only one year's education after statutory schooling. Clearly, as we have not heard that this afternoon I have knocked that particular little untruth on the head. However, there is the subtle change that the Highers are only a single year course. Many students take a little longer than a year to obtain their Higher. Therefore, that is not entirely a good argument.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, thought he had delivered the killer punch, as it were, when he discussed the family in Berwick with a son who goes to Edinburgh University and pays £3,000 and a daughter who goes to Durham University and pays £4,000. However, the son who goes to Edinburgh and who, under our amendments, would pay £3,000 would be in the same queue, paying the same £3,000, as students from everywhere else in the UK and everywhere else in the European Union. The daughter going to Durham and paying £4,000 would pay the same £4,000 as students coming from every part of the UK and every part of the European Union. The noble Lord destroyed his own argument by that example.

This is the third time we have debated this matter but it is only the second time we have asked the Commons to think again. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, pointed out, the Speaker has not certified this as a money Bill. We have changed the amendments quite considerably. I thought I had laid aside the argument about the £27 million. I was sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, decided to home in on that again. I have laid it aside and I shall indicate in a second or two that I am prepared to lay it even further aside.

Your Lordships have spoken. I have invited the Government, when in a hole, to stop digging. Frankly, when I am winning I think I should stop and just let the Division occur. But before I do I wish to help the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. I am content to rely on the position in England and Wales that there will be no discrimination between Scottish and Northern Irish students at English and Welsh universities as regards fees. Therefore I shall

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withdraw my Motion to enable us to concentrate entirely on the other two amendments, in particular that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Steel. If, as I fully expect, the noble Lord, Lord Steel, calls a Division, I shall invite my noble friends and other noble Lords, who have listened to this argument and realise the strength of all the speeches they have heard, to join the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and myself in the Lobby to ask the Commons to think again. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 64D, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 64E, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 64.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

123

Clause 25, page 22, leave out lines 31 to 39.


The Lords disagreed to the amendment for the following reason--
123B

Because arrangements for the payment of grants in respect of tuition fees at Scottish higher education institutions should be the same for students from other parts of the United Kingdom as they are for Scottish students.


The Commons insisted on their amendment for the following reason--
123C

Because the disagreement by the Lords to the Commons amendment involves charges on public funds, and the Commons do not offer any further reason, trusting that this reason may be deemed sufficient.

MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS REASON

Lord Steel of Aikwood rose to move, That this House do not insist on their disagreement to Commons Amendment No. 123, on which the Commons have insisted for their reason numbered 123C, but do propose the following amendment in lieu of the words so left out of the Bill--

LORDS AMENDMENT IN LIEU

123E

Clause 25, page 22, line 30, at end insert--


("( ) In exercising his powers under this section, the Secretary of State shall ensure that any arrangements for the payment of grant in respect of tuition fees for the fourth year of study for a first degree course at a higher education institution in Scotland apply equally to a student whose parental home or normal place of residence for purposes other than attendance at that institution is in England, Wales or Northern Ireland as they do to a student whose parental home or normal place of residence for purposes other than attendance at that institution is in Scotland."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think that any further words from me would be appreciated. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.

Moved, That this House do not insist on their disagreement to Commons Amendment No. 123, on which the Commons have insisted for their reason numbered 123C, but do propose Amendment No. 123E in lieu of the words so left out of the Bill.--(Lord Steel of Aikwood.)

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4.30 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 319; Not-Contents, 108.


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