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Mr. Dawson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Green: My time is limited and I want to give the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), who moved the amendment, a chance to get in.

What has happened since that might have changed the situation? The Dearing committee reported. It was set up on a cross-party basis; everyone agreed that it was a sensible way forward and that we needed to examine the funding of higher education. I remember that my Labour opponent at the general election, who was a teacher at a university, always said that the Labour party could not make any commitments about higher education because it was waiting for Dearing to report.

That is how Labour fought the general election. What did the Government do as soon as they received the Dearing report? On the day that it was published, they started rubbishing it, and they decided not to implement one of its most important proposals. That is a betrayal not

8 Jun 1998 : Column 833

just of the students of this country, but of everything that Labour told the British people during the general election campaign.

The Dearing committee was clearly set up with the idea that the time for maintenance grants might have gone. The issue has been discussed by those who care about funding for higher education for many years. There was a clear presumption that the Dearing report would come down on the side of saying that the time had passed for maintenance grants. We should respect the fact that after 14 months of study, the distinguished group that made up the Dearing committee decided, rather unexpectedly, that there was a role for maintenance grants to play in the future of British education. That decision was made precisely because the committee was most concerned with access to higher education for those who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

It is not simply a matter of adding up how much students might pay or determining who should not have to pay tuition fees. It is, as many hon. Members have said, a matter of culture. Those who say that we are reclassifying debt as investment and who claim that by so doing, everything will be all right, are talking nonsense. People know when they are in debt. They know that they will have £10,000 to pay back when they leave university.

Students who come from less well-off backgrounds are much less likely to take the risk. It would be a tragedy for those individuals and for the country as a whole if less well-off children, thinking about higher education, decided that it was too high a risk and said, "I'll play it safe and not go into higher education." If the Government force through their proposal, they will condemn thousands of the less well-off to a less good life than they could achieve by their own efforts and damage our economic performance by narrowing the base of those who will develop the skills that we as a country need to ensure that our prosperity continues.

The position is worse than that, because there is no guarantee that the money that will be raised from the fees and saved on the maintenance grant will be put into higher education. We have had half a commitment for this year and we have no commitment for future years. This is a Treasury-driven agenda which will do nothing for higher education. The Government have disappeared into the logic of their own focus groups. They have decided that if the Treasury demands it, they prefer to clobber the poor rather than the better-off. That is an historic mistake.

I admit that the motives of many of those on the left of British politics have been good. I think that they have been wrong-headed, but socialism clearly arose from a desire to promote common decency. Uniquely, the Government are throwing out the baby of common decency with the bath water of socialism. Socialism has been proved to be intellectually wrong and not to work. However, behind it there was a thought--many Labour Members must have gone into politics with this in mind--that there must be some common decency. The Government are betraying the sense of common decency that brought many Labour Members into politics in the first place.

Mr. Blunkett: The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) will have to do much better than that if he

8 Jun 1998 : Column 834

is to succeed on the Opposition Front Bench. He said that he was proud of the Conservative Government. Is he proud of a 40 per cent. cut in unit costs per student? Is he proud of capping entry into university, to prevent increased access? Is he proud of a Government who halved the grant, but who did not provide additional funds for access or for hardship, which we are doing by means of the Bill?

The hon. Gentleman's opponent at the general election was right. We spelled out clearly what we would do on maintenance, and we said that we would review the Dearing proposals on fees.

Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Blunkett: No, I will not.

We are voting on the issue of the maintenance award. We are voting not on fees, but on whether a manifesto commitment, which was explicit, will be carried forward. We are voting on whether a Labour party conference decision, which was overwhelming, will be carried this evening. We are talking about ensuring that students have the money at the point when they need it, and that they repay it when they can afford to do so.

That is the simple issue before us. It is not a matter of principle about free post-16 education, because that is not even at stake within the amendment. If it were, part-timers and further education students would be in a different position from full-time undergraduates. No principle is being laid aside. We are talking about a provision to ensure that no one is in hardship at university, with additional provision for those who find themselves in difficulty, with loans to be repaid at a real nil rate of interest based on the Inland Revenue system and linked entirely to ability to pay.

We are asking the House to carry forward this signal reform in the funding of the higher education system, so that the majority, not the minority, can benefit. For the sake of a modern Britain in a new century, we ask hon. Members to vote against the amendment.

Mr. Canavan: The Government propose to abolish maintenance grants and to make students completely dependent on loans. To put sugar on the pill, the Government are telling students that they will be able to borrow more money and repay it over a longer period. May I say to the Secretary of State that it is little consolation, especially to students from low-income families, to be told that the millstone around their necks will be heavier and there for longer?

May I also say to the Secretary of State that nothing in my amendment is inconsistent with Labour party policy or with the manifesto commitment, which was a bit ambiguous? It said that the costs of student maintenance should be repaid by graduates on an income-related basis. Some graduates might argue that they already do that by paying income tax. May I also say to him that, sooner or later, the Government will have to grasp the nettle and realise that the introduction of a progressive taxation system is essential for a fair education system?

The Secretary of State has already introduced some special financial support for students with disabilities and lone parent students, and I welcome that. If my amendment proposed the abolition of loans and the

8 Jun 1998 : Column 835

reintroduction of a comprehensive system of maintenance grants for all students, I might be able to understand part of his argument that, in some way, it conflicts with his reading of the manifesto, but I am not proposing that. All I propose is that there should be some maintenance grant for students from low-income families. I imagine that most hon. Members, at some stage in their careers, have received the advantage of a maintenance grant to enable them to go on to college and university. I appeal to every hon. Member please not to kick away the ladder of opportunity from future generations, and please to support my amendment in the vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 176, Noes 313.

Division No. 294
[11.13 pm


AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Canavan, Dennis
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Clappison, James
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
(Perth)
Curry, Rt Hon David
Dafis, Cynog
Dalyell, Tam
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Etherington, Bill
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flight, Howard
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Garnier, Edward
Gerrard, Neil
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Grant, Bernie
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livingstone, Ken
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McAllion, John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Marek, Dr John
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mitchell, Austin
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Pollard, Kerry
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Rogers, Allan
Rowlands, Ted
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Salmond, Alex
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Swayne, Desmond
Swinney, John
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Welsh, Andrew
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wise, Audrey
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mrs. Maria Fyfe and
Mr. John McDonnell.


NOES


Ainger, Nick
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Breed, Colin
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon
(Dunfermline E)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Church, Ms Judith
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fatchett, Derek
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McLeish, Henry
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Milburn, Alan
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Singh, Marsha
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wallace, James
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Robert Ainsworth and
Mr. Jon Owen Jones.

Question accordingly negatived.

8 Jun 1998 : Column 838

It being more than six hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Order [19 May] and the Resolution [this day], put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Amendments made: No. 69, in page 15, line 45, at end insert--


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