Peter Bradley: Does my hon. Friend agree that she has just set out the case for why it is highly unlikely that a market will develop in higher education? That is precisely because no university, whether Cambridge, Oxford, Wolverhampton or Huddersfield, can afford to forgo the income that it would secure by charging variable feestop-up fees or, as they now are, top-down fees, and fixed fees with discounts. Does she have any evidence that a market will develop in higher education?
Mrs. Campbell: That remains to be seen. If my new clauses and amendments are not successful this evening, and if the Bill goes through, there will be a review after a three-year period so that we can examine the situation that has developed. I have set out the fears, however, and my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) has just pointed out the damaging situation that there has been in the US. The worry is that the same situation, to a lesser extent, might develop here, although, as I have said, I do not think that the proposals will be as damaging here as the United States provisions have been.
Tony Wright: Will my hon. Friend consider the fact that the Bill offers a highly regulated market in higher education? The consequence of a highly regulated market model failing is a cutting-loose by those parts of the system that want to create an unregulated market. If that happened, we would get not the status quo, but an unregulated market.
Mrs. Campbell: That is the very thing that my amendment is trying to avoid. I hope that by replacing the variable fee with a higher fixed fee, it will give the universities extra money, which they so badly need, and would at the same time prevent marketisation from developing.
Paul Farrelly: I just want to probe whether my hon. Friend's amendment is a probing amendment or whether she intends to press it to a Division. If she does press it to a Division, and if the amendment is successful, have the Government already given any indication of what would happen to the Bill? Have they, for instance, indicated that they might withdraw the Bill if the amendment is passed?
Mrs. Campbell: I would like to press the amendment to a Division and I have said that already. I believe that the Government have made some indications to other people about what would happen in the event of the amendment being passed, but I am afraid I have not had any indication so far of what would occur. However, I stress that the amendment is not intended to be a wrecking amendment. It is a very carefully constructed amendment, which would leave the Bill intact.
It has already been mentioned that Cambridge university has proposed paying bursaries of £4,000 to students from lower-income backgrounds. That means, of course, that with the £2,700 that is available from the Government, lower-income students in my constituency would have £6,700 per annum available without any need to take out a loan. I believe that that is very generous. However, students who are fortunate enough to get a place at Cambridge are likely to do much better for financial support than those who go to one of the ex-polytechnics.
I should like briefly to discuss my amendment No. 129 and then give my support to amendment No. 130, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead). Amendment No. 129 is very important as it changes the powers of the Secretary of State into an obligation. Under both the current legislation and the proposed legislation, the Secretary of State has the power to prevent universities from charging more than the cap, but he does not have a duty to do so. This means that if the legislation passes tonight without the amendment, a Secretary of State who does not wish to enforce the legislation has no need to do so and the House could not compel him to do so. If for instance, Dr. Richard Sykes comes along in a few years' time and says, "I cannot manage with a fee of £3,000 so I am going to charge £5,000", we may have a Secretary of State at that stage who thinks that that is probably correct, but does not wish to go through the burdensome process of either secondary or primary legislation or even the affirmative resolution process. That Secretary of State could say, "I do have the power to stop you, but I am not going to exercise that power, so go ahead." There is nothing at that stage that Parliament could do because we have left it to the discretion of the Secretary of State.
Jonathan Shaw: My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, as she did in Committee. But is it not the case now that universities can charge as much as they want? Obviously, they would not receive any money from HEFCE, so is there not a real danger that unless universities of the type that my hon. Friend is describing receive a steady income stream now and for the future, some universities might decide to go it alone and charge enormous fees, and the type of access to which we all aspire would simply go out of the window?
Mrs. Campbell: That is the situation that the amendment is intended to address. My amendment would make it very clear that the Secretary of State is obliged to prevent the university from charging the higher feenot just having the power to do it, but an obligation to do it. I therefore consider this to be an extremely important amendmentwithout it, the debates that have raged on the cap and on variability and whether to charge fees at all simply fade into insignificance. It is an important amendment and I hope that hon. Members will support it this evening.
I also wish to support amendment No. 130, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test and others. It would mean that the cap could not be raised above inflation before 2010 without primary legislation, and beyond that point only by amendable resolution on the Floor of both Houses of Parliament. I tabled similar amendmentsNos. 123 and 124but I have
I shall now explain why I cannot support amendment No. 128. As it stands, the amendment would remove clauses 22 to 27, which impose the conditions under which fees can be levied. That would mean, for one thing, that amendment No. 129 would fall, because it relates to clause 22 and the powers and duties of the Secretary of State. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) believes that if we passed his amendment we would revert to the current legislation as defined in the 1998 Act. He suggests that the Government would have to introduce further amendments in the House of Lords to raise the fee to a more realistic level. However, given the current state of relations between the two Houses, I do not share his optimism that their Lordships would play ball.
There is a more important objection. Without any further amendments to remove the repeal measures of the 1998 Act, as defined in schedule 6, the effect of my hon. Friend's amendments would be to deregulate fees completely, because that schedule will repeal the parts of the Act that refer to the current fee regime. The Conservative spokesman pointed out that amendments have been tabled that would remove the repeal of the provisions in the 1998 Act, but they were not tabled by my hon. Friend. To my surprise, they were tabled by the hon. Members for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) and for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins). Are those amendments really intended to be consequential amendments to amendment No. 128? If so, how come they were tabled by the Conservatives and not by my hon. Friends? I have to ask what is going on there.
Clare Short: The purpose of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson), and supported by so many of us who wish to adhere to our manifesto commitment, is to take variability out of the Bill. We would like the Government to accept that principle. If some consequential amendments had to be made in the other place, they would be easily carried, given how the different parties line up there. We are talking about a principle, not the technicalities of amendments. Let us be straightforward with each other.
Mrs. Campbell: I accept what my right hon. Friend says, but those consequential amendments appear on the amendment paper tonight and they were tabled by the Conservatives. I accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North has not colluded with the Conservatives, but I find it extraordinary that the consequential amendments have been tabled by them.
Mrs. Fitzsimons: I know that my hon. Friend has many years of experience lobbying the other place on higher educationas have Iand we have discovered that it has its own mind on that subject and peers often
If any of my hon. Friends are tempted to support amendment No. 128, I hope that they realise that to complete the ends that they are supposedly trying to achieve they will have to vote for amendments tabled in the name of Conservative Members. No Labour Member's name is put to those amendmentsthere are not even any Liberal Democrat or Plaid Cymru Members' names, only Conservative Members' names. I wonder what local constituency parties would think of that.