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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There are three Ministry of Defence facilities currently providing treatment and care to civilians following road traffic accidents: two general hospitals and a specialist brain injury rehabilitation centre. They have, as have NHS hospitals, always had the right to collect charges following accidents but have suffered, as the NHS has, through the lack of organised collection. We intend that the military hospitals will benefit from the centralised arrangements this Bill will introduce and that from the day the new scheme begins they will be fully on board alongside NHS trusts.

The regulation-making powers found in Clause 15 will enable us to cover the detailed provisions which will be necessary to cope with the administrative differences between military and NHS hospitals.

I am afraid that I do not have the figures for which the noble Earl asked. I shall certainly see whether any are available.

Earl Howe: Did the noble Lord answer my question as to why the Government could not treat this as a direct enactment in the Bill rather than include it as an

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order-making power? I do not fully understand why military hospitals cannot be brought within the sweep of the Bill immediately.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is intended that the scheme will operate in relation to military hospitals from the same day as it operates in relation to NHS trusts.

Earl Howe: That may be so. But if that is the case, and the Government are ready to move on the matter, I should have thought it possible to bring that provision into the Bill and save the House time in considering the regulations that will ensue. I shall not press the point too much. I am grateful to the Minister.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Regulations and orders]:

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 9, line 35, leave out ("or areas").

The noble Earl said: There is no indication in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill as to what the Government have in mind in allowing for different rules and procedures to be set up in different parts of the country. This is therefore a probing amendment designed to ascertain what this subsection of Clause 16 actually means.

What I hope it does not mean--because it would involve undue and unwarranted complexity--is that different charging tariffs could be set up for different regions of the country. One of the main factors which recommend the Bill is that the Government have opted for simplicity and for the most straightforward type of charging formula; namely, a flat fee for both in-patient and out-patient treatment whatever hospital in the country is involved. It would certainly not make life any easier if, say, hospitals in Scotland were able to charge a different amount, and hospitals in London yet another. I should be grateful if the Minister would put my mind at rest on that point.

Lord Glenarthur: I wonder whether the noble Lord can explain the relationship between the word "areas" in paragraph (b) in respect of the regulations conferred by the Bill and exercisable by statutory instrument, and the fact that subsection (2) of Clause 14 extends the provision only to England and Wales. Is not that subsection in a sense tautological? If "areas" includes England, Wales and Scotland, the provision is unnecessary.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: One of the advantages of using the compensation recovery unit to handle NHS recovery work is that the unit is a national body already covering recovery of state benefits throughout the United Kingdom. Ministers in England, Scotland and Wales are keen to see the unit carry out this new role but, as I have said earlier, that decision is not set in stone. It may be that, at some point in the future, collection is handled differently in, for example, Scotland. It may also be that some other changes are felt necessary to adapt the system to the particular needs of one or the other of the home countries.

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I ought to say that the use of the term "areas" is standard drafting. It should not be taken to imply that new regulations will be introduced for accidents happening in West Yorkshire or the Black Country.

The amendment would remove flexibility. I hope that the noble Earl will withdraw it.

6.15 p.m.

Earl Howe: This is a probing amendment. However, do I understand the Minister to say that there could be a separate Scottish tariff?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Under devolution, with the election of a Scottish Parliament, responsibilities will pass to the Scottish Parliament. It will then be for the Scottish Parliament to decide what it wishes to do with the scheme that it inherits.

Earl Howe: Is the Minister aware whether or not the insurance industry is happy with that? Has the industry been consulted on the point?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The industry has been consulted on many aspects. I am not aware whether it has been consulted on the particular impact of devolution. I can inquire into that.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Interpretation]:

[Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 10, line 28, leave out from beginning to ("and") in line 32 and insert ("has the meaning given in section 192 of the Road Traffic Act 1988;").

The noble Earl said: I fully realise that the provisions of the Bill in relation to the definition of a road stand absolutely four-square with the equivalent provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The point of the amendment, however, is to draw the attention of the Committee to an apparently strange discrepancy between the definition of a road in legislation relating to England and Wales and the equivalent definition in Scottish legislation. It is a matter of genuine puzzlement to me.

Clause 17 gives one definition of "road" for England and Wales and another for Scotland. The Minister may be about to tell me that in reality there is no difference of interpretation. But the Scottish definition in the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 refers to "a public right of access". In other words, the legislation would not on the face of it cover an accident in Scotland which occurred on a private road or a private car park, even though for all practical purposes the accident were a road traffic accident involving injury to a vehicle occupant or a pedestrian.

The English definition in Clause 17 appears to be broader. It appears to cover a road to which the public have physical access, whether or not they have a legally

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enforceable right of access. I should therefore be glad if the Minister would clarify the issue. It would clearly be wrong for there to be any discrimination between those responsible for accidents in Scotland and those responsible for accidents south of the Border. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I understand the point that the noble Earl has made in relation to the definitions laid out in Clause 17 and the question as to whether this would introduce a new variation of the meaning of "road" in Scotland. I have sought advice on this matter and I am assured that, because of amendments to the definition of "road" in Scotland since 1988, it is no longer necessary to make extra provisions, as are needed in England and Wales, to the definition found in the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. I hope on that basis the noble Earl will withdraw the amendment.

Earl Howe: I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I readily beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Consequential amendments]:

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

Clauses 18 and 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Transitional provision]:

[Amendment No. 43 not moved.]

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Short Title, etc.]:

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

Clause 21 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Education (Student Support) Regulations 1999

6.20 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 4th February be approved [8th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should remind the House that the Government were required under the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 to subject the first regulations made under that Act to the affirmative procedure. That requirement does not extend to these, the second regulations to be made under it, but we have chosen to follow that procedure because these regulations signal important further changes in the arrangements for student support. The Government recognised that Members of both Houses would welcome the opportunity to clarify any remaining questions they had on the detailed policy they embody. This debate therefore provides an opportunity to focus on the detail of the regulations before us. We had interesting debates last year on the

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Government's policy on student support and I ask noble Lords not to go over ground today which has already been covered.

These regulations give effect to the Government's proposals for student support for students who will enter higher education in 1999-2000 and for those who entered in 1998-99. Parallel regulations for Northern Ireland will be made shortly. There will be an opportunity to debate the Education (Student Loans) (Scotland) Regulations in respect of Scotland under a separate Motion immediately following this one.

The Education (Student Support) Regulations were laid on 4th February. They have been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and were considered in the other place on 15th February. The regulations relate to the academic year 1999-2000. They will apply to students who enter higher education during that year and to those who entered during the 1998-99 transitional year. They will not apply to students who entered higher education before 1998-99; nor will they apply to those who entered in 1998-99 but who for specific reasons are treated under the previous arrangements--for example, gap-year students. Those students will continue to be subject to the previous arrangements. We shall shortly bring forward regulations on mandatory awards and student loans which will govern those arrangements for the coming year.

The Government are keeping their promise to students and their families. The rates of support for 1999-2000 set out in the regulations reflect an increase in the resources available to all students for their living costs by 2½ per cent., in line with forecast inflation; and they are honouring their pledge that the student's family will not be expected to contribute any more in real terms towards living costs than under the old mandatory awards regime. These increases apply equally to existing students who continue under the old mandatory awards arrangements and to new students who in 1999-2000 will be eligible for 100 per cent. loans. The parental contribution will be the same for both groups.

Students to whom these regulations apply will be eligible to receive a loan towards their living costs and a grant towards the cost of tuition fees. The maximum full-year loan for a student living in London will be £4,480 and the maximum contribution towards tuition fees will be the full amount of £1,025. Those in exceptional circumstances--for example, students who are disabled and students who have dependants--will continue to be eligible for supplementary allowances in the form of grants.

The regulations deal with all issues relating to the payment of support. They set out the eligibility criteria for support--for example, that generally a student should be ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and that he or she should be doing a course which is designated for student support. They cover the amount of loan available, and this varies depending on whether the student lives at home, away from home, in London or is studying abroad. They cover grants towards tuition fees and the supplementary grants towards living costs. Finally, the regulations cover the application process

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students should follow; the financial assessment of the level of support a student will be entitled to; and arrangements for paying support to students in instalments. The arrangements for the prepayment of loans will be dealt with in a further set of regulations to be made later this year.

A key feature of the regulations for England and Wales is that they bring together and streamline the provisions relating to the payment of all types of higher education student support. In the past, different criteria applied in relation to eligibility for student loans and for mandatory awards; students needed to apply to their LEA for mandatory awards and to their institution for a loan; and they were paid grants by their LEA and their loan by the Student Loans Company. We have taken the opportunity to simplify and harmonise the policy where appropriate and to remove unnecessary duplication in the administrative procedures.

In future, all students will apply to their LEA in the first instance. The LEA will determine whether they are eligible for support and notify them of how much they are entitled to. At the same time, it will notify the Student Loans Company, which will make payments to students. Higher education institutions will be responsible for confirming the student's attendance and handing over the first payment. The new arrangements will be clear and transparent for students and for those who administer the arrangements--local authorities, the Student Loans Company and higher education institutions. Our aim is that all students will receive payment by the first day of term and thereafter by termly instalments. Students have their part to play in this by meeting the deadlines we have set for making applications.

We have consulted on the policy and administrative procedures reflected in these regulations with key representative organisations--the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the National Union of Students and the Local Government Association. They have helped us to ensure that the technical aspects of the regulations are right, for which we are most grateful.

There are some new features to which I would draw your Lordships' attention. Our aim to is to widen access to higher education, and these regulations contain policy measures to help achieve that.

First, we have extended loans to those aged under 55 at the start of their course, where the student intends to enter employment after completing his or her course. This fulfils the pledge the Secretary of State made last June, and this welcome extension will be of real benefit to those wishing to retrain or develop new skills at this stage of their lives.

Before I leave this point and this age group, I should like to make clear to the House our position on one issue in these regulations which I know has caused some particular concern. SKILL (the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities) made representations to us during the course of last week about the effect of the regulations on disabled students aged over 50. While we have extended loans to certain students between the ages of 50 and 54, the effect of the regulations is that students

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who do not qualify for loan support towards living costs will not in future qualify for disabled student allowances. I should like to assure the House that the Government have heard these concerns very sympathetically. We are clear that we wish disabled students to continue to receive support towards costs arising from their disability. We are currently considering how best to achieve this and we shall be exploring the options in meetings with SKILL next week. We shall make an announcement on our plans soon.

Secondly, we are introducing a new allowance of up to £100 per week for students who enter higher education after having been in care and who need housing costs in the long vacation. Students who have been in care have often found it difficult to get a place to live in the long summer vacations. It is usually impossible for them to stay with their parents or to look to them for help and support. There are not many of them--in fact there are not enough of them--but we are determined not to let these few students down as they seek to improve their lives and job prospects through higher education.

We also announced last month that from autumn 2000 part-time higher education students on a low income will for the first time be entitled to loans of a maximum of at least £500 to help with the costs of their courses. We shall allocate £30 million to support the new loans over the next two years from 2000 to 2002. The loans for part-time students--both new and existing ones--on a low income will be to help with their course expenses, such as books and equipment. Also, £5 million has been allocated for the 1999-2000 academic year to enable fees to be waived for those starting undergraduate courses who are in receipt of benefits. Similar amounts will be available for following years. They will be available in respect of existing as well as new students for part-time undergraduate study towards first degree, HNC, HND or other undergraduate credit-bearing HE provision which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. "Part-time" here means at least 50 per cent. of a full-time course.

On the basis of that explanation, I commend the regulations to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 4th February be approved [8th Report from the Joint Committee]--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

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