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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend about the need for complete confidence in the independence of the National Audit Office and the Comptroller and Auditor-General. However, I answered his questions in detail in my first Answer: that the issues agreed with the accounting officer are issues of factual accuracy; and that, if there is a reservation about the interpretation of facts which cannot be resolved, the difference of opinion is explained in the report. I believe that that is the transparency which my noble friend seeks.
Lord Saatchi: My Lords, does the Minister agree that we live in an age of full disclosure? Is not that reflected in the mission statement of the National Audit Office, a vital body which has as one of its seven core values a belief in open communications? Therefore, will the Government authorise the National Audit Office to disclose on what occasions and in what respect its reports have been altered by Ministers?
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced the Government's spending plans for higher education in England on 16th November. The total additional funding for the sector is £412 million in 2001-02, £268 million in 2002-03 and £298 million in 2003-04. That represents a 10 per cent real terms increase.
Since 1998, the total additional funding for institutions is £1.7 billion, an 18 per cent increase in real terms over the six years. Copies of the press notice have been placed in the Library of the House.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. It is good that four months after the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review universities finally have an assurance about what their spending plans can be and can begin planning.
Does the Minister agree that the problem which faces people like your Lordships is the interpretation of the figures? Can the noble Baroness assure the House that the figures quoted in the press release as publicly planned spending increases include moneys which come to the universities from student fees? Am I also right to conclude that the money supposedly available for recruitment and retention of staff, equal opportunities and human resource potential has been double counted in that, if universities are successful in achieving the targets for access set by the Government, they will not have that money available to spend on increased staff salaries?
Baroness Young: My Lords, is the Minister willing to expand on the very serious issue of recruitment and retention of staff? As the Minister is well aware, there are areas of university life where it is almost impossible to recruit able people of the right calibre to posts at the
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I can confirm that for 2001-02 there is a figure of £50 million for that purpose, and for the following two years the figures are £110 million and £170 million respectively. I accept that there are difficulties in recruiting and retaining people of very high calibre in certain fields. However, one should not exaggerate the overall position. There are still many good people coming forward who want to work in our universities as academics and in other roles.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the Minister gave three figures in her first response to the noble Baroness's Question. Can she explain precisely why the figure for the first year is so much higher than those for the following two?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, in the first year there is a substantial amount of funding to improve opportunities for young people who come from low income backgrounds. There is substantial extra widening access funding available in the first year. The total additional funding of higher education is way above the amounts that I quoted, which do not include the research figures. The total additional funding will be £3 billion by 2004, taking overall funding to £7.7 billion.
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that if there is a scarcity in certain fields the universities, which are independent institutions, can adjust the amount that they wish to pay in the overall financing of that sector?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. Pay in universities is a matter for higher education institutions, not the Government. The additional funding that we have been able to make available is considerable when viewed against the background of a 36 per cent cut under the previous government over the period 1998 to 1997. However, this is a matter for universities, which now have additional funding to pay rather better salaries.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that this means that in future the Government will pay as much attention to the quality of higher education as to access to it, which seems to have been the strong message of the past two to three years? Does the noble Baroness accept that the example of Ireland in particular shows that investment in higher education of the best quality has direct pay-offs in terms of higher economic growth, which is very much what this country needs?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have just quoted very substantial figures for investment in higher education. The Government accept that that investment will pay off in the knowledge economy. The Government have been committed to improving
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I believe that the Minister will have to correct the two dates which she quoted in her previous response. The noble Baroness referred to cuts between 1998 and 1997. Can she say what proportion of the sums to which she refers has been pre-announced, what proportion represents inward investment, for example from the Wellcome Trust, and what proportion is as a result of student fees?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I shall correct the slip of the tongue. I meant to refer to the period 1988 to 1997 during which the previous government substantially cut unit funding to higher education. The noble Baroness asks quite detailed questions. I reassure her that all this is new money, a very small amount of which was announced in July at the time of the Comprehensive Spending Review. I shall write to the noble Baroness to provide the details.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, is the Minister aware that only one in 300 children from care go into higher education as opposed to one in five for the rest of the population? Will some of the funding for widening access go towards promoting opportunities for these particular young people?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, under the Children (Leaving Care) Bill which the Government have introduced a great deal is to be done to support these youngsters. More specifically, my department is providing extra funding to support young people in care who are in higher education but who, for example, do not have a home to go to in long vacations. A great deal more must be done to give these youngsters the opportunity that they have not had in the past to develop their potential.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we announced our policy in our response to the Royal Commission on Long-Term Care of the Elderly. We believe that our proposals to invest in intermediate care and to improve standards of care and fair access to services, together with the changes that we are making
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, my noble friend is invariably helpful, but how can he speak about fair access to services when the Government's policy to pay only for nursing care in residential homes and refuse to pay for personal care discriminates against some disabled people? It cannot be right that someone who suffers from, say, Alzheimer's disease is forced to pay for his or her personal care, whereas the different costs of people with other disabilities are fully paid for by the state. The policy to refuse to help with the personal care of people who must be fed, washed, dressed and toileted by others is unacceptable. The wise politicians of Scotland have said that they are to reconsider that matter. Why can we not do so?
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