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Robert Flello: Further to the previous point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Two manuscript amendments have been tabled and are currently with Mr Speaker. Is there a way for the House to convey to Mr Speaker just how strongly we feel that the suggestion of continuing the debate until 10 o'clock would be the better of the two?
Tristram Hunt: As a new Member of the House, I am finding the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) a complete tour de force. We are learning a great deal from him tonight, and it would ill behove him to rush. On the broader point of the time limit for tomorrow's debate, is he aware of the numerous protestations that I have received from academics, students and postgraduates in the humanities community, who are worried not only about the situation facing history and modern politics but about what could happen to classics, divinity, theology, social anthropology, archaeology, anthropology and many other subjects? We could not possibly deal with all those concerns in five hours.
Hilary Benn: I bow to my hon. Friend's expertise in these matters. He illustrates the point that many people are interested in all those subjects, as well as others that he did not have the opportunity to mention. They want us to have the chance to debate these matters tomorrow.
Mr Bain: Is my right hon. Friend aware that, since he began his speech, it has been reported that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change might not be in the House tomorrow to attend the debate or to vote? Does not that reinforce the argument that five hours will not give him enough time to explain whether he is abstaining or simply hiding in Cancun?
Hilary Benn: I have followed with interest the various reports of the movements and non-movements of the Climate Change Secretary who, in fairness, is doing very important work in Cancun because we need a global climate deal. Having seen some of the newspaper reports that we should have offered him a pair, however, it seems to me that the easiest thing would be for him to pair with one of his colleagues who is going to vote on the other side. There is no need for him to come and seek our assistance.
Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recall the debates on the national minimum wage, when we sat up all night because the Conservatives were determined to oppose the proposals and fought them every inch of the way? Does he agree that we should be equally willing to fight this legislation, and that we should stay up all night if necessary?
Hilary Benn: The determination of Opposition Members to do everything we can to ensure that we get a proper amount of time to debate the issues and the chance to vote the proposals down is evident . My hon. Friend makes a powerful point.
Emily Thornberry: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps you can help me on this point. Is the reason that we can have only a five-hour debate tomorrow the fact that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, finds it difficult to stay awake? I can see him sleeping on the Front Bench-
Ian Paisley: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. As he will know, these measures will also have a considerable impact on the devolved region of Northern Ireland. One in every three students from Northern Ireland attends a university here in England, and if the Government push through a change in the legislation, the Assembly in Northern Ireland will have to pick up the tab for the increase in fees for those who study outside Northern Ireland. The figures indicate that, on top of the current spend of about £90 million on students travelling from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom, an increase of between £30 million and £60 million will have to be found to cover the fee increase. Where is that money going to be found, given that the Government are already asking the Assembly to cut back in other areas? We do not-
Mr Speaker: Order. First, my strong impression is that the hon. Gentleman's intervention is beyond the scope of the debate. Secondly, it is longer than is desirable or acceptable. Interventions need to be shorter from now on.
Hilary Benn: I wish I could help the hon. Gentleman by answering his question, but I cannot. One of the people who could help him is sitting on the Government Bench, but I do not know whether he will want to intervene on me to give the hon. Gentleman the information he seeks. This provides another powerful reason to have more time tomorrow to answer the hon. Gentleman's question and many other questions that right hon. and hon. Members will want to ask.
I shall make a little more progress. One issue that the House will need more time to debate tomorrow is the potential financial consequence of the fee increase, which is presaged on an 80% reduction in funding for institutions that right hon. and hon. Members have the honour to represent in their constituencies. We still do not know for certain by how much each university is going to be affected by the introduction of the near-trebling of fees, particularly when universities are also going to be affected by other changes. For example, we know that the regional development agencies are being abolished, that the funds for regional development, some of which have been used in partnership with institutions of higher education, are being reduced and that the local economic partnerships have not been properly established in many places because of the state of chaos. Universities do not know how much they might have to find in the current financial year, never mind the impact that these tuition fee changes will have. This could affect students this year and in subsequent years as the transition from the current to the new system is managed. These are all questions that we need time to debate.
Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is discussing fees, and the university in my constituency of Bolton South East is one of 20 widening participation universities. As a result of the Browne review and tuition fee changes, it is expected that those 20 universities will collapse and will be unable to carry on serving the needs of the most vulnerable students in our society. Is five hours enough time to discuss the fate of the 20 universities that are likely to collapse?
Hilary Benn: My hon. Friend makes a very powerful point-one that I am addressing at the moment: the potential financial impact of these changes on a number of universities. That is precisely one of the points that we need to debate tomorrow, but we have been denied sufficient time to do so on the current arrangements.
Chris Williamson: My right hon. Friend has been extremely generous in giving way this evening and I am very grateful to him for his kindness in giving way to me on this occasion. Does he agree that restricting the debate to five hours will give scant time for me to raise the concerns that I know exist in Derby in respect of Derby university? It has been calculated that, as a result of the 80% reduction to which he referred, that university will find a black hole of about £30 million. It will find it extremely difficult to increase tuition fees to the level that would be necessary-
Mr Speaker: Order. First, there is the issue of scope. Secondly, I know that the hon. Gentleman, who is a very well-behaved man, would not seek to make a speech when he is supposed to be making an intervention. [Interruption.] Order. He has registered his point, to which I know the shadow Leader of the House will want to respond.
Angela Smith: I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way; he is being very generous with his time. Sheffield Hallam university could lose about £70 million because of this decision. Is it not imperative that Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and myself make a contribution tomorrow, especially given that the Deputy Prime Minister has refused to meet the local student union to discuss the matter?
Hilary Benn: I am surprised and concerned to hear that news. It seems from what my hon. Friend says that the right hon. Gentleman is willing to spend more time in the television studios, describing the changing positions of his party, than he is prepared to spend talking to students who are going to feel the consequences of what he is proposing
I turn to a difficulty that might arise for all Members tomorrow, because all we are discussing-I say "all" in a contextual sense-is two statutory instruments. Here I seek guidance from the Leader of the House and possibly from you, Mr Speaker. The House will be aware of the rules governing the scope of debate on statutory instruments. A little while ago, I promised that I would quote from "Erskine May", and page 681 states:
"Debate on any statutory instrument, whether subject to the affirmative or the negative procedure, is confined to the contents of the instrument, and discussion of alternative methods of achieving its object is not in order. Where the effects of an instrument are confined to a particular geographical area or areas, discussion of other areas is out of order. Nor is criticism of the provisions of the parent Act permitted."
Mr Speaker, does that mean that Members will be restricted tomorrow in what they can discuss and what they can say? Does it mean, for example, that Opposition Members who would wish to argue the case for a graduate tax cannot raise it in the debate? Could they be ruled out of order? If right hon. and hon. Members want to refer to the implications of the proposals for other parts of the United Kingdom, will they be ruled out of order? Were that to be the case, it would show how improper is the Government's decision to bring the statutory instrument before the House tomorrow. If that interpretation of "Erskine May" is applied-
Mr Speaker: Order. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. I am not sure whether his inquiry was a genuine one or a rhetorical one, but he has referred to the fact of the motion and the narrow terms of the statutory instrument, and he raises the concern about how much scope there will be for Members fully to develop their points. It might help him and the House if I point out that the two-the motion and the SI tomorrow-have been conflated for the purposes of the consideration, and the intention of the Chair would be to adopt a broad and generous interpretation of what could legitimately be said in the debate. I hope that that is helpful to Members in all parts of the House.
Hilary Benn: It was a genuine inquiry, Mr Speaker, and I am extremely grateful to you for your guidance. When I read that section in "Erskine May", I was genuinely concerned that Members might be denied the opportunity to have the full debate that we require tomorrow.
Thomas Docherty: Has my right hon. Friend noticed, as I have, the silence and lack of activity from Government Members? Is it his view that they agree with us that this is a horrible stitch-up by those on the Government Front Bench, or, as Government Members have suggested, do they also wish to contribute speeches tonight? Does my right hon. Friend look forward to many of them joining us over the next few hours, as we debate this important matter?
Hilary Benn: If we do hear this evening the voices of Government Members, I hope that they might persuade the Leader of the House to change his mind about the proposal that he wants us to vote for tonight. We have no intention of doing so.
Dr Whitehead: Notwithstanding the clarification about the scope of tomorrow's debate, does my right hon. Friend accept-bearing in mind that the White Paper relating to the orders will come along later and that details of changes will follow-that if a student got the results of the exam first, then the exam paper, and finally the lecture notes, it would be a rather strange way to go about their university education?
Hilary Benn: It certainly would be, although reflecting on the scenario that my hon. Friend sets out, there might be certain advantages, especially for students who had not been applying their minds to their studies. He makes the point, however, that the Government are going about this matter in completely the wrong way.
I am sure that a large number of Members wish to take part in this evening's debate, as well as the very large number who wish to take part in the debate tomorrow. The third reason that I wish to advance for our need for more time tomorrow is the fact that, as we have already established this evening, Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament on their own could occupy the whole five hours by explaining the multiple positions that they are adopting notwithstanding the efforts of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Albert Owen: Following your helpful confirmation, Mr Speaker, that we will debate all the issues, is it not imperative for us to be given an extended period allowing us to discuss the points made by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) and others about the Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish perspectives, involving those who are domiciled in their own countries but come to England to study? Is there not a greater imperative for the time to be extended now that we are clear about the boundaries of tomorrow's debate?
Hilary Benn: It is indeed important for the time to be extended to allow full debate. We need time to hear the views of not just the Liberal Democrats who have decided to break the pledge and vote for the fees increase tomorrow, but all the Liberal Democrats who are going to abstain.
We know that the Liberal Democrats have wrestled with their consciences over the last few months, and we know that that has been difficult for them. I think that the House owes them a chance to seek to catch your eye one by one, Mr Speaker, so that they can explain why they have chosen to sit on the fence, and why they believe that that will absolve them of what they have done and clear their consciences. No doubt many Members on our side will seek to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, in order to point out that abstaining will do no good at all, because a betrayal is still a betrayal whenever it is undertaken.
Does not what we have heard tonight-and what we have had to rely on as a statement from you, Mr Speaker, about the need to widen the scope of the debate-merely underline the shoddy and appalling way in which the measure is being railroaded through the House? Is this what the Deputy Prime Minister meant by "new politics"?
This is a defining moment for the coalition Government. It is the moment when the bonds of that coalition will be sorely tested. The trebling of tuition fees, the debt that will be incurred by future generations, the threat to the finances of some universities-all those will be at stake in the debate tomorrow. If that is not an argument
for the House to be given proper time in which to debate such matters, I do not know what is. The truth is that the Government have treated the House with contempt, and I urge the House to reciprocate by treating the motion with the contempt that it deserves and throwing it out.
Mr Speaker: Order. Two hon. Members have submitted manuscript amendments which I myself saw a matter of a few minutes ago, and which, to my certain knowledge, have been submitted within the last hour or so. It is right that I give the House a verdict on the matter. I have not selected either of the amendments. There was plenty of time in which manuscript amendments could have been submitted: they could have been submitted much earlier in the day, but that did not happen.
It may also be helpful if I point out that the House is having-I emphasise the words "is having"-a very full debate on all the relevant issues relating to time. There has been, and continues to be for as long as the debate continues, a very good opportunity for Members who wish to argue for particular allocations of time to do so. That is the situation, and we must now move on.
Paul Farrelly: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you tell us whether you have received any amendments to tomorrow's motion other than from the Opposition Front-Bench team, and in particular whether you have received a cross-party amendment to the motion?
Mr Speaker: I was slightly perplexed and taken aback by that attempted point of order for the simple reason that we are not discussing tomorrow's motion, and I am not going to get into the subject of amendments thereto. I was focusing simply on manuscript amendments tabled tonight by, I believe, the hon. Members for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) and for Glasgow South (Mr Harris). It is with that, and that alone, that I was, and am, concerned.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you advise us whether it is in order for Members to seek to speak in this evening's debate if they were not present for the whole of the opening two speeches?
Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. [Interruption.] Well, I do not think the hon. Gentleman is applying to make a speech, so I do not think he is caught by his own stricture. I consider it to be a general courtesy applying to all debates that if a Member wishes to speak he or she should be present for the opening speeches, and that is the basis on which I work. I hope the hon. Gentleman is content with that response.
Robert Flello: I am not sure whether you were in the Chair at the time, Mr Speaker, but earlier in the debate the issue of Members who have other business in the House was raised. I am concerned that there may well be Members who are unable to attend the opening speeches tonight or tomorrow because of other duties in this House. They may be delayed and they may therefore not be able to catch your eye, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker: I have a sense that that is a continuation, and perhaps even a development, of a point that was made earlier, not least by the hon. Gentleman himself, but it is not a point of order for the Chair.
Before we get on with any continuing debate, I will just emphasise that the Chair will have the very keenest regard to the closeness to the motion that Members demonstrate in their speeches. There has not yet been a Back-Bench speech, and I am happy to hear one, as they are important, but Members must stick to the terms of the motion, and I will be focusing very intently on whether that is being done, and on the economy displayed in developing the arguments.
Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I rise to oppose this evening's motion tabled in the name of the Leader of the House and the Minister for Universities and Science. It is interesting that it is two Conservative members of the coalition who have put their name to the motion, and that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who was here earlier, has not put his name to it. Earlier on, he was sitting in his place with a face which the funeral industry beckons because of what he had to sit through tonight.
We are here to discuss a business motion that is another example of something we have already seen this week: how the Government have attempted to restrict debate on this vital matter for many thousands of not only our constituents now but future generations. Tomorrow's debate will, in five hours, change the relationship between people and the state and how we provide higher education in this country. To do that in five hours is totally unacceptable.
Angela Smith: Does my hon. Friend agree that the House should put on record its grateful thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) for having done such a grand job in defending the rights of the House and of the people of the country in how he led tonight's debate?
Later, I will remind some Members on the Government Front Bench how eager they were in opposition to argue, on the subject of programme motions, that we needed to have more debate. That is especially true of the Deputy Leader of the House, although he is not in his place. I remember having to listen to hours of his droning on about why-
Steve McCabe: Is my hon. Friend at all concerned for the well-being of the Business Secretary? If he cannot bear to sit through this debate about the time required to discuss the issues, how on earth is he going to cope with the criticism of his policy tomorrow?
Mr Jones: I do not wish to get off the subject of the debate, and my hon. Friend tempts me to do so. Clearly, Mr Speaker would rightly pull me up if I were to start talking about the health of the Business Secretary, which has no relevance to this debate. However, I must say that the Business Secretary is a very nice gentleman, so we should all be concerned about his health and the difficulty that he is clearly going through on this policy.
Mr Slaughter: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is relevant that barely 10 Liberal Democrat Members have been in throughout the debate? The latest estimate is that 100,000 students will be coming tomorrow, yet nobody on those Benches has the courtesy to listen to the debate. Five hours seems to be as long as they are prepared to give to this issue tomorrow. Is that not hugely disrespectful to all our constituents, who care about this issue?
Mr Jones: I note what my hon. Friend is saying but, again, I wish to stick to discussing this business motion. I would not want Mr Speaker to pull me up for being tempted to go down a path that would not be in order.
Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend reminds us that we must return to the motion, so what does he think of the Government's practice of setting the time for tomorrow's debate to finish at 5.30 pm and ignoring the moment of interruption, which this House democratically voted to put at 6 pm on a Thursday?
Mr Jones: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has got good eyesight or was reading my mind, because that was exactly the point that I was going to make next. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) says that he is "Mystic Kev", and clearly he is. An important point is at issue, because when the Leader of the House made his opening remarks he was asked why the debate was going to finish at 5.30 pm and not 6 pm tomorrow and we are still waiting for an answer. That was the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) tried to tease out with his manuscript amendment. Clearly, Mr Speaker, you have ruled that that is not in order, but we have still not heard an explanation of why 5.30 pm was chosen.
We have seen a strange thing this week, because this motion allows us five hours for the debate tomorrow, yet a matter of a day ago a motion proposed that we have three hours for that debate. No explanation has been given of why two hours have suddenly been conjured up-I will allow people to intervene on this. If we can suddenly, in a day, conjure up two hours, why can we not conjure up more time, as is clearly needed for this vital debate?
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I am hoping to catch Mr Speaker's eye tomorrow in the debate and I have much that I wish to say about this very important matter. If I cut to the bone what I wish to say, I will need at least 20 minutes to do any justice to the subject. What prospect does my hon. Friend think I have of having 20 minutes in which to speak tomorrow?
Mr Jones: The point has been made that if everyone spoke, they would get about 50 seconds. I know that my hon. Friend speaks very eloquently and, on occasion, can go on at length, as we all can, but I am sure that he could get his remarks down to fit the timetable. However, the fundamental point tomorrow is that we will have five hours in which to discuss these vital points.
Thomas Docherty: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I do not wish to rain on his argument, but he is constantly referring to the five hours allowed. He might want to check the motion. If we have an urgent question or if business questions overrun-they are always popular thanks to the charm of the Leader of the House-we will have less than five hours to discuss this issue.
Mr Jones: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. When the Leader of the House opened the debate, he gave an assurance that the Government would not make any statements tomorrow that would eat into the time. My hon. Friend makes a good point, though: issues might arise overnight to do with the weather in Scotland and other parts of the country, or to do with the demonstration tomorrow, or with something else. An urgent question might be sought and Mr Speaker might allow it. A statement might have to be brought forward. If that happens, that will eat into the five hours that we have been allocated.
Paul Farrelly: Given the number of applications to make a speech-there has been a running total throughout the debate-may I tempt my hon. Friend to inquire of Mr Speaker whether he has decided that there will be a time limit on speeches?
Mr Jones: I am sorry, but I would not dream of telling Mr Speaker how to do his job. It will be up to Mr Speaker to decide the allocation of time and who is called. Given the numbers who have expressed an interest in the debate, I think a time limit might well be introduced.
Mr Speaker: Order. Perhaps I can be helpful both to the hon. Gentleman and to the House. The time allocated for the consideration of these important matters tomorrow is specified and protected time. Any concern that the hon. Gentleman might have of the kind that he has just expressed is almost certainly unfounded. I think it would be better if he were to develop his argument on other fronts. In the process, may I gently remind him that I am having some regard to the economy of speeches? I am interested to hear voices, but there must be economy.
"not later than five hours after the commencement of proceedings on the first motion, or at 5.30 pm, whichever is the earlier".
Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman was justified in being confused. I was speaking off the top of my head and I suffered from the disadvantage of being wrong. I thought I was right, but I was wrong, and people should admit when they are wrong. The hon. Gentleman's concern is justified and I apologise to the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones). My point and stricture about economy, however, still apply.
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Has my hon. Friend considered this matter in the historical context? The last time we had such a considerable change to the funding system for higher education was in the 1940s. The Education Act 1944 was considered by many people to be the key reform in higher education and it was debated for a full year before the 1945 election. Has my hon. Friend taken that into account in considering his remarks tonight?
I want to ask the Leader of the House about the change that happened this week, from allowing three hours to allowing five. The motion was not moved last night and two hours were added to the debate. I think that everyone welcomes that, but it still gives inadequate time to cover the points that we have to make in the debate tomorrow. Whether that was another great concession wheedled out of the coalition by the Liberal Democrats I do not know; I am sure that if it was, we would have heard about it by now.
John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend agree that rather than looking set to fall asleep, Liberal Democrat Members on the Government Benches would be well advised to be on their feet pleading for more than the five hours that has been allotted to the debate so that they can tell their constituents and the nation how they have got into this appalling mess and perpetrated this betrayal of their constituents' trust?
Mr Jones: I do not want to intrude on the personal grief of the Liberal Democrat party. Like any other Member of the House, in the limited time available tomorrow, they can try to catch the Speaker's eye to make their points. I am sure that those who signed the pledge during the election but will vote in favour of the increase tomorrow will want to come to the House to explain why they have changed their minds. It is entirely open to individuals to do that.
Nic Dakin: I calculate that we have had about two and a half hours of debate, in which only three people have spoken, on an issue that might seem unimportant to people outside-whereas tomorrow we will have only twice as much time as that to debate something of great importance. I think that tells the story.
Mr Tom Harris:
Given the severe and absurd restriction on the time we have to debate this issue tomorrow, is it not likely that both Labour and Conservative Back
Benchers will be given slightly more time, in the likely event that the Liberal Democrats have difficulty mustering Back-Bench speakers? They are unlikely to get the number of their speakers even into single figures!
Mr Jones: We will have to see what happens, but a very important point was raised earlier about the amount of time that will be available for Government Front Benchers to reply to the debate tomorrow. If we have a packed House with a lot of speakers, there will be limited time for Ministers to explain to the British public the policy that they are putting forward.
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): I am grateful to my hon. Friend and fellow north-east MP for giving way. Tonight I have spent some time with the North East of England Process Industry Cluster, which tells me that it recruits many graduates in the north-east. I am sure that it will share my concern that those graduates-its feedstock-may not be available in future if these student fees are imposed. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is another good reason why we need more time to debate this important issue?
Mr Jones: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I told the Whips tonight that I was giving up the opportunity to dine with people from north-east industry, so I have given up that very nice dinner and an opportunity to discuss with those individuals, who are very important to the north-east, higher education and other issues.
Kevin Brennan: The Government's response to the debate is a key factor, is it not? If they had simply allowed the debate to extend to the normal moment of interruption on a Thursday, there would have been half an hour for them to respond, but as things stand, we will probably have only something like five minutes each at the end.
Mr Jones: I accept what my hon. Friend is saying, but I do not think that an extra half hour would give the House enough time to debate this issue. The words of the Leader of the House in his opening statement are important. As a reason why the statutory instrument needs to be rushed through this week, in a matter of five hours, he said-I wrote this down-that otherwise we would slow the process down, and that the fiscal position we are in is important. That exposes the truth of why this measure is being driven through. It is nothing at all to do with higher education or ensuring that Members can have a debate tomorrow. Rather than the Government thinking about the future of the country and its educational needs, they are saying that future generations will have to start paying now, to try to help them in the financial position in which they now find themselves.
Julie Hilling: Does my hon. Friend agree that tomorrow we will be debating an issue of such importance for all young people in this country that we owe it to them to spend a reasonable time having a reasoned discussion, in order to make a decision on something that will live with them until they reach retirement?
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): As somebody who is not doing a U-turn, I ask the hon. Gentleman: if you are spending more time tonight debating the issue of how long tomorrow's debate will be than that debate will take, why, at 7 o'clock tonight, did you vote not to discuss this at all?
Mr Jones: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for coming in. I do not think that he has been here all night, unlike the rest of us. Clearly he has had his dinner, unlike me, and many other Members who have been sat here since 7 o'clock.
Angela Smith: I have looked around me and seen on this side of the House at least four Members who once worked in higher education. They have the expertise that could be brought to bear on the issue in a Public Bill Committee. Should this legislation not be in a Bill, and be considered on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report?
Mr Jones: My hon. Friend takes me on to my next point, which is about the decision to debate the issue in five hours tomorrow. That is to ensure that the measure will be dealt with before the framework document is in place, but it seems ludicrous to have the discussion tomorrow and fundamentally change the funding of higher education in this country before we have the full framework policy document. That should be in place, not only to reveal how what is decided tomorrow may be interpreted, but to allow some newer universities a debate about their financial future. It is clear to me that some of them will struggle when these measures are implemented.
Mrs Moon: Is it not one of the risks that we are running that many universities in England will find it more attractive to bring in overseas students paying, yet again, higher fees? English students will not be able to afford to go to university. We are going to debate the issue within five hours, but the structure of education in Britain is to change dramatically. We need more than five hours to discuss that.
Thomas Docherty: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am struggling to hear my hon. Friend because of the large number of conversations taking place on the other side of the Chamber. Is there anything you can do to ensure that I can hear my hon. Friend?
Mr Speaker: All Members, including those in the Chair, should exercise a self-denying ordinance in these matters. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it would be good if the decibel level went down. [Interruption.] Order. Mr Ruane. [ Interruption .] Order. Mr Roger Williams, you should not be chuntering away in a private conversation when I am trying to give a helpful ruling. It would help if the decibel level went down and we could hear the speeches.
Mr Jones: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) made a good point, because tomorrow is not just about raising the cap. It is about the consequences of raising the cap, which will have an effect through the recruitment of foreign students. Earlier, a point was made very eloquently by a Northern Ireland Member about the effect on Northern Ireland students. Tomorrow we will have to cover a range of issues, which will be difficult to do in the short time that we have.
Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Hon. Members have referred to Northern Ireland, but the regulations are specific to England. Of course, we are concerned about the whole United Kingdom, however, and we are talking about a variable geometry over the United Kingdom. Is it not right and proper, therefore, that we should have plenty of time to compare and contrast the situation in England with that in the rest of the United Kingdom?
Mr Jones: That is a very important point, which the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long) eloquently made earlier. The changes that we make tomorrow will affect students not only on the mainland, but in those countries with devolved Administrations.
Naomi Long: At the Northern Ireland Grand Committee yesterday, we were advised that the Barnett consequentials of the anticipated decision tomorrow, and of any bursary or student support arrangements that may or may not be introduced, have already been passed on to the Northern Ireland Assembly in the block grant. I would presume that it might take more than five hours simply to understand how such a calculation could be made.
Mr Jones: The hon. Lady makes a very good point. My right hon. Friend's central message was that tomorrow we need to discuss, and will discuss, those complex financial implications. There are implications not just for universities and individual students, but, as the hon. Lady quite rightly says, for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Paul Farrelly: I am listening to my hon. Friend with great interest, but I fear from the smile on the Government Chief Whip's face that he is considering when to cut my hon. Friend off in his prime. If a closure motion is called, would it be remiss of Liberal Democrats to vote to curtail the debate?
Robert Flello: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, whose speech I am enjoying greatly. I am also looking forward to making my own speech in due course, so I hope that there will be no closure motion. Owing to the joys of modern technology, Members in the Chamber can monitor their e-mails and see the constant stream of communication from students and their families who are worried about what will happen tomorrow and the amount of time we will have to debate this matter. Has he too received a huge number of representations, in his e-mail account and otherwise, from people concerned about the time we will have tomorrow?
Kevin Brennan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a matter of some great contention, and we know-indeed, you will be aware, Mr Speaker-that in the previous Parliament a disturbance during proceedings on the Hunting Bill debate caused the House to be suspended. In the unlikely and absolutely dreadful event of that being repeated tomorrow, would the five hours be protected, or would any suspension of the House eat into that time?
Mr Speaker: The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that he is raising a hypothetical question, and my attitude is best encapsulated in the wise words of the late Lord Whitelaw, who famously said that on the whole he preferred to cross bridges only when he came to them.
Mr Jones: It is important to put this business motion into context. It is a Government motion that seeks to regulate the business and sitting of the House, and page 368 of "Erskine May" sets out the details about such motions clearly, stating:
"Such motions, which do not have precedence...are normally moved by the Leader of the House and invariably require notice".
"those...referred to specifically in Standing Order No 15 (exempted business), which are moved at the interruption of business".
"Under recent practice, such motions are more commonly moved in the ordinary course of the day's business in relation to the business proposed for a future day, in which case notice is given as for any other notice of motion. Typically, such motions may set a time limit for a future debate"-
"and may provide for the putting of questions by the Speaker after a certain period or at a specified time."
"To give precedence to government business over private Members' business either on a particular day or days or for a period, for example, until the end of the financial year."
Mr Slaughter: I wonder whether my hon. Friend is moving towards the recommendation of a specific time limit. If he is, I urge him to consider that eight hours might be more suitable than five, because according to a poll by The Sun, eight hours would allow one hour for every 1% of support that the Liberal Democrats now have among the people of this country.
"To give precedence to specified business...on a particular day",
"To provide for a Saturday sitting",
"To provide for adjournment at a stated hour"
on a sitting day. As is eloquently laid out in "Erskine May", the effect of motions such as the one before us is to limit discussion. In this case, it will limit discussion on a vital piece of legislation to five hours.
Roberta Blackman-Woods: Does my hon. Friend agree that one thing that will make life difficult tomorrow for those of us who wish to speak on behalf of our constituents is that the context in which the statutory instrument sits is changing all the time? For example, today there were yet more changes concerning part-time fees. That makes it impossible to work through the impact of the changes.
Mr Jones: My hon. Friend makes a very good point, representing a university city as she does. I remember working hard to get her elected in 2005, when we had to put up with more nonsense from the Liberal Democrats about tuition fees. No doubt my hon. Friend and I will remind them of that later this week when they are deciding how to vote.
Fiona Mactaggart: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I am concerned that he, like others, has suggested that the motion will give us five hours to debate the principle tomorrow. In fact, Standing Order No. 16, to which the motion refers, protects debate on statutory instruments. There will be two statutory instruments before us, which under the Standing Order will take up three hours of the debate. There will therefore be only two hours left to debate the fundamental principle of how we fund higher education.
Mr Jones: I must tell my hon. Friend that she is technically not correct. Mr Speaker explained that the statutory instrument and the general principle will be put together to allow five hours' debate. The effect of tonight's motion will be to limit debate. It will clearly not provide enough time to discuss the issues that have been raised in the House tonight. It will dismay the many thousands of electors who will be affected by the measures now or in the future, that a fundamental change to education in this country can be decided and voted on in five hours.
Emily Thornberry: Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods) on the concessions that are being made, is my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), as an experienced Member of this House, confident that there will not be a Cancun concession tomorrow that will also have to be debated, so that there will be another last-minute change?
It is important that people who signed the pledge, as they called it, have the opportunity to come here tomorrow and take part in the debate. It was interesting that in last week's Question Time the Deputy Prime Minister refused on several occasions to indicate how he or his party intended to vote. We were told earlier tonight that the Liberal Democrat group had unlimited discussions the other night to try to get some consensus on how they would vote, and they still could not come to a decision.
Helen Goodman: I do not know whether my hon. Friend has calculated this, but had the proposal gone through a normal legislative process, we would probably have had 170 hours' debate. We are to have precisely 3% of the amount of time that we would have had. Has he also noticed that the motion before the House this evening specifies when the matter will be debated, Thursday 9 December, and has-
Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady must resume her seat. It is absolutely understandable-I have said this so many times-that Members look behind them when they think they are addressing a colleague behind them. The hon. Lady must address the House. Secondly, the intervention is rather long, and I feel sure that it is coming to an end. In fact, I think it has probably reached its end, has it not?
Mr Jones: My hon. Friend makes a very good point about the specific day that the Government picked for the debate. We have seen changes to the motion this week, and it would be interesting to know why the motion for a three-hour debate was not moved the other night. I return to the point that I have yet to learn the justification for why we got the extra two hours. If we can allow two extra hours, I am sure we can allow more.
Albert Owen: My hon. Friend is making a strong point. The Leader of the House has been here throughout the debate, and he is very courteous and usually very helpful. He could clear the matter up by coming to the Dispatch Box and explaining to us why we have a 5.30 pm cut-off. I am dismayed that he has not taken up the opportunity. [Interruption.]
I am sure that the Leader of the House- [Interruption.] I am sorry, but I think that barracking the Leader of the House is wrong, because he is a very
courteous individual who respects the House. I am sure that in his winding-up speech, he will want to explain why we have the extra two hours.
Sandra Osborne: Does my hon. Friend recall the regular songs and dances in the previous Parliament from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats about programme motions, and about how if they got into power they were going to do away with them? Does he think that is consistent with what they are doing tonight?
Mr Jones: No, and my hon. Friend is another Member who has read my mind, because I was just about to come on to that. The Deputy Leader of the House, who has now resumed his place, used to give long lectures on why programme motions were so evil, but the effect of tonight's motion will be to limit the time for debate in a similar way to a programme motion.
I do not intend to go through the entire history of how we came to have programme motions, because that would lead us away from the point, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) said, in the last Parliament we were regularly told how evil programme motions were. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr Shepherd) set out his views clearly on many occasions about why programme motions, or limiting the time for debate-
Mr Speaker: Order. May I say to the hon. Gentleman that, as I think he knows very well, he has a well honed technique of informing the House that he is not about to talk about something, before proceeding to do precisely that? He said that he would not rehearse the history of programme motions, and he is absolutely right, he will not. I hope that he will now focus on the specifics of the motion as, presumably, he is drawing his remarks to a close.
Mr Jones: I was going to do so, Mr Speaker, but I was making the point that the effect of the business motion is to limit debate. When the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were in opposition, they made it quite clear how terrible programme motions were.
Mr Jones: Programme motions are very similar to the motion that we are debating. If the hon. Gentleman had been here, which he quite clearly has not, he would be following the debate rather than chuntering from a sedentary position.
I should like to compare this situation with the two previous occasions when the House debated changes to the system of tuition fees-before the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 introduced the £1,000 fee for students, and before the Higher Education Act 2004 introduced variable top-up fees. In 1998, the Government introduced a number of programme motions. A report said that nobody objected to them, but six hours was allowed to debate amendments. No one spoke against or resisted those programme motions.
It might help if I set out in terms on the Floor of the House the consideration of the 2004 Act. Far more than five hours was allowed for debate. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central said, in 2004, there was more time on Third Reading and Report and otherwise to debate amendments, and the Government also ensured that there was a full debate on the implications of variable top-up fees-we will discuss increasing the cap on top-up fees tomorrow.
On both those occasions, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats spoke against limiting the time-the generous amount of time-that was allowed for debate. It is important to remember that there is some inconsistency in what the coalition Government are proposing, because when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were in opposition, they opposed programme motions on the ground that they limited time, but they are tonight going to go through the Division Lobby to allow only five hours to debate the increase in the cap on tuition fees.
Dr Whitehead: My hon. Friend is reflecting on the 2004 Act. He will recall that at the end of the lengthy discussions on that, a sunset clause was inserted that required any suggested increase on the cap on tuition fees to be the subject of a full debate on positive resolutions in both Houses. Does he consider that the hours allocated for tomorrow discharges that clause?
Mr Jones: My hon. Friend played a key part in that legislation, and he makes a good point. If we are to have a detailed discussion on the implications of the Government's proposals, we need time. That was not the case in respect of the discussion on the 2004 Act. Time on the Floor of the House was given for full discussions on the implications of the measures. I also remind the House that many Labour Members at that time made key points to try to get concessions out of the Government, including my hon. Friend, to ensure that poorer students were protected.
Steve McCabe: Is my hon. Friend aware that since this debate began, a further 23 Members have applied for permission to speak in the debate tomorrow, taking the total to more than 70? Does that not show that it would be ludicrous for the Leader of the House to stick to his current position? Now is the time for him to recognise the mood of the House and agree to an extension of the time.
Mr Jones: It is not only the mood of the House: it is also the mood of the country. As with many things that this Government are doing, they are rushing things through. If we had pushed through legislation and ignored the House to this extent, we would have been rightly criticised. Sometimes we did not allow the House enough time for true debate and we were criticised in the press. The point has already been made that curtailing debate also leads to bad legislation, because the implications are not scrutinised either on the Floor of the House or in Committee.
My hon. Friend knows that this House has taken a few knocks to its reputation in the last couple of years. Will not the public be staggered when they find out that not only will the debate tomorrow be limited to five hours, but that the Government are not
even proposing that the House uses up the time that it normally has available on a Thursday and finishes at half-past 5 instead of 6?
Mr Jones: My hon. Friend has made that point eloquently for the third time. I know that repetition is important, but I do not want to repeat points that have already been made well. It is true that we still have not had an explanation for the finishing time from the Leader of the House.
In conclusion-[Hon. Members: "More!"] I could start from the beginning if people want me to do so- [ Interruption. ] The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne) has been chuntering from a sedentary position all night. I do not know whether he actually wants to make a contribution to the debate tonight or tomorrow, but as he has given up his principles for his red box and car, perhaps he should explain why.
In conclusion, five hours is completely inadequate to discuss the important implications of the motion tomorrow. It will affect not only thousands of students who are now in university, but thousands in the future. It will change the relationship between the state and higher education. It is not acceptable to rush that motion through in five hours without any justification for why three hours was okay two nights ago and five hours is adequate now. I urge hon. Members, especially those Liberal Democrats who still have their backbones in place, to vote with us and object to this programme motion tonight.
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): I have a great deal of affection for the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable)-and the stadium in his constituency. He is usually a reasonable man, but in this case he is in an unreasonable hurry.
While the focus has been on the Liberal Democrat position, I fear that five hours will not give us enough time to look at the more interesting views of some influential Conservatives. For example, I would like to have more time to consider this view:
"Some people will, apparently, be put off applying to our elite institutions by the prospect of taking on a debt of this size. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is all to the good. The first point that needs to be made about the so-called deterrent effect of a...loan is that anyone put off from attending a good university by fear of that debt doesn't deserve to be at any university...if you're such a fool that you don't want to accept that deal, then you're too big a fool to benefit from the university education I'm currently subsidising for you."
Those words were written by the Secretary of State for Education, the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), when he was a columnist on The Times in 2003. Of course, the level of debt will be double or more if these proposals go through.
The Government have admitted that debt deterrence is a factor, but as the ground shifts I am not sure that we will have time tomorrow-in five hours-to debate the new national scholarship fund that the coalition are introducing. Very sketchy details have been given to the House about that. We need time to debate that fund and the evidence on which it is based.
Steve McCabe: As well as discussing the reasoning behind the piece of writing my hon. Friend mentions, could we not also ask the Minister for Universities and Science, the right hon. Member for Havant (Mr Willetts), to explore what has happened to his thinking? He wrote a book called "The Pinch," which describes how our generation is robbing today's teenagers. He is now setting out to do the exact opposite to his book's conclusions.
Paul Farrelly: I agree with my hon. Friend. The views of the Secretary of the Secretary of State for Education can perhaps be described as ultra logical. The Minister for Universities and Science is himself a logical man, but clearly when one admits that the fear of debt, however illogical, is a factor, we must have the time to inquire further into such policies.
Kevin Brennan: Is the point that my hon. Friend is making about the vagueness of some of the detail of the proposal not absolutely vital to the issue of having only five hours for the debate tomorrow? A debate in this House should not simply consist of the Government putting forward their proposals and ramming the measure through on a majority; it should consist of sufficient time for opposition and other Members to scrutinise and ask questions of the Government. That simply will not be able to happen tomorrow.
Paul Farrelly: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Evidence shows-I hope to come on to some of the evidence-that in constructing any higher education package, it is important that the whole is taken together. The reality of politics means that if the fee levels are set in a five-hour debate tomorrow, those people who are concerned about student support and other elements of the package that may or may not count as deterrents will lose their leverage in future negotiations. My hon. Friend is absolutely correct.
Mrs Moon: One of the problems with a five-hour limit is that the legislation is complex and many young people may arrive here tomorrow wishing to clarify the terms and conditions under which their future education will depend. They will need to spend time talking to their Members of Parliament, but they will not have time to do so in that five hours. In particular, I know that young people have been unable to access their Liberal Democrat MPs because of notices on their office doors that say the office is closed.
Mr Speaker: Order. First, that intervention was too long and, secondly, the issue is not how much time visitors to the House have to raise matters with Members who might or might not be taking part in a debate; the issue is the allocation of time for Members of Parliament to debate the issues.
Paul Farrelly: My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point. What young people will take away from just five hours of debate tomorrow is the fact that going for a degree will cost them much more. They will not have any details on how they will be supported. Such information would allow them to form a considered view. Some of the evidence that I fear the House will not have time to consider tomorrow shows that, where variable fees have been introduced overseas, there is a deterrent effect. That is clear from the Ivy League in the United States. Again we will simply run out of time tomorrow to give proper consideration to the US experience.
Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the deterrent effect is particularly keenly felt by students who will be the first in their families to go to university? That is the case for many students in my constituency who are, frankly, put off by the terrifying prospect of £30,000 or £40,000 of debt.
Paul Farrelly: I was the first in my family ever to go to university. It is certainly a challenge for the Government to ensure that students who do not come from a background where higher education is the norm are not put off. I fear that that will be the starting point if we are allowed to debate the matter for only five hours tomorrow.
Robert Flello: I am grateful to my hon. Friend and next-door neighbour. My constituency covers a third of Stoke-on-Trent, a very challenged area, where one of the best ways forward for young people is to go either to the fine university of Keele or to the fine university of Stafford. How will they be able to do so if we do not have the time tomorrow to debate the full intricacies of the issues, so that they can be reassured?
Paul Farrelly: I thank my hon. Friend for raising the situation in north Staffordshire, where we live, which is a situation that will be replicated across the country. The danger is that we will not have the time to debate, area by area, the risk to the entirety of an institution that will follow-or may follow-the teaching cuts and the fees combined.
Julie Hilling: Does my hon. Friend agree that people studying courses such as youth and community work will be disadvantaged? It is mainly poorer and older people who go into the profession, and they are people who spend their lives in the service of young people and their communities, but who will never earn the salaries-
Paul Farrelly: I am acutely aware, as my hon. Friend is, that the Government are saying on the one hand that they want the best and brightest to go into teaching, for example, yet on the other hand they are making it more difficult, and that we will not have enough time tomorrow to debate all those intricacies or how the Government plan to tackle the issue.
John Robertson: People outside this place will be affected by what will happen and what will be discussed tomorrow, but how much time from those five hours does my hon. Friend think will be devoted to the problems in the devolved areas?
Mr Speaker has graciously allowed a wide-ranging debate tomorrow, but inevitably-this is at the Speaker's discretion-there will be limits. It will be difficult for Members, if they are called, to expand fully on the arguments in the time available. The
international evidence is vital. Good, sound policy should be based on evidence. Frankly, we need the time, as an intelligent House, to debate it.
Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend share my concern and that of million+, the think-tank, that we do not have sufficient time to deliberate on the impact of some of the Government's proposals on women's participation in university? Some of the assumptions are very false. Women will take longer to pay back the fees and will therefore end up paying more in the long run.
Paul Farrelly: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend; the effect on women is also something that the House should be given time to consider. Million+ is a great institution that has put forward many practical alternatives. It disputes some of the Government's assertions about who will bear the greatest burden, which is something that we have now heard the Institute for Fiscal Studies doing too. We will simply not have time in five hours to get to what is fact and what is fiction in the Government's position.
Mr Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North) (Con): Obviously this debate is focused on the opportunity to debate the subject tomorrow, but on Monday the Opposition had their eighth allotted Opposition day debate. They chose to discuss not tuition fees but local government funding. Perhaps when they are complaining about a lack of time, they could remind the House that when they had the opportunity on Monday, they did not take it.
If we had the time, one of the things that we should look at is the experience in the US. Some 34% of young white people in the United States earn an honours degree, compared with only 19% of African-Americans and 10% of Hispanics. Again, we will not have time to look at the international experience. In Canada, when fees for medical schools went up from roughly the same level as ours are now-the equivalent of £3,000 in their currency-to $15,000, which is much the same as £9,000, participation among children from lower income backgrounds dropped by a third. We simply will not have the time-[Hon. Members: "Hooray!"] We will not have the time to rehearse all that evidence.
Robert Flello: My hon. Friend is making some extremely important points about having the time- [ Laughter. ] He is talking about having the time tomorrow to debate these important issues, yet all that we can hear from across the Chamber is hysterics. Is it really that funny to prevent young people from going to university because of these fee increases, and not having time to discuss it?
Most Members of the House are very well behaved and listen politely when other Members are on their feet. Mr Speaker, I will not try your patience by going through every fee level, which we will
not have time to debate, in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, institution by institution and region by region. The fact is, however, that if the motion goes through tomorrow, we will have the highest levels of fees across the board outside the United States. The implication of that-
Mr Speaker: Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is in danger of catching North Durham disease. The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) was fond of saying what he would not talk about before proceeding to talk about it, and I hope that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) is not going to follow suit.
Mr Tom Harris: It has been announced tonight that the latest YouGov poll puts the Liberal Democrats on only 8%. Would it not be to their benefit to have more time to debate these matters tomorrow, in order for them to persuade the country that they have actually stuck to their principles? Or does my hon. Friend believe that, if they were given more time, that 8% might look quite optimistic in a couple of weeks time?
The evidence from the UK needs to be properly considered as well, including the evidence on price sensitivity. And the Government have not explained the evidential base on which their policy is based. We need time to fathom that.
Helen Goodman: I would not wish to make a political point, but does my hon. Friend agree that the Leader of the House might have been influenced by the fact that the statistics for applications from UK-domiciled students for undergraduate courses at the colleges of Oxford university show that 10 times as many come from Hampshire as come from County Durham?
There are a great many documents from institutions in the UK that have been looking at the effect of fees on participation, and we really need the opportunity to debate them. One such document, an interim impact assessment on higher education funding, shows that, according to the evidence on price sensitivity, a £1,000 increase in fees reduces participation by about 4.4 percentage points, yet here we are, facing a £6,000 rise, which would imply a reduction in participation by a quarter. We need time to look at all that evidence, which the Government have not been forthcoming in producing to back up their plans.
The Deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg) has placed great emphasis on social mobility. He has even stated that these proposals will increase social mobility, and we need time to be able to cross-examine that view and to see the evidence for it.
We also need time to give an airing to all the views of the young people that have come to us from across the country, e-mail by e-mail. We need more than five hours to do that.
Catherine McKinnell: On social mobility, another issue that I am sure we will not have time to debate properly tomorrow is the removal of the education maintenance allowance. That, as well as the issue of tuition fees, is relevant to social mobility and the two issues will have a cumulative effect, preventing people from accessing universities or even from getting into a position to think about going to university in the first place.
Paul Farrelly: My hon. Friend will have heard me mention the Secretary of State for Education-a lovely man, although he has some energetic views. What we really need is time to see whether the Government are engaging in joined-up policy. How does the abolition of the EMA affect participation and how will it increase mobility? The same applies to the abolition of the Aimhigher programme. We simply have not had the time and I do not think we will have the time in five hours to debate that.
Mr David: As already noted, the statutory instrument applies only to England, but a number of Welsh colleagues have been in active dialogue with our friends in the Welsh Assembly. A different regime, of course, will be implemented there. Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be good for debate if we had ample time to bring forward the Welsh experience so that we could compare it with what is going to happen in England?
Barbara Keeley: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way; he is being generous with his time. As for understanding how the abolition of the EMA will affect different groups, I hope we will get enough time to discuss the impact on young carers. I recently spoke to someone who worked in a young carers' project in Salford who told me that all but one of the young carers, aged 16 to 18, were on the EMA. She was very worried that they would lose out on the end of their education. Maintaining an education alongside a big caring work load is a very difficult thing. Let us hope that we will have enough time to discuss that issue.
Paul Farrelly: Indeed. People who have to take a break from work-women raising a family, for example-will lose out in terms of their ability to repay because they become carers. Again, we need more time to look at the impact of the changes on such people.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you help me? Have you had any indication from the Leader of the House whether he intends to wind up the debate on behalf of the Government? He has been sitting there motionless throughout the evening and has not taken the opportunity to explain why he has imposed the 5.30 pm deadline and why he has not answered the
question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) about the increase from three to five hours.
Mr Speaker: I have received no such indication. I did not invite it and it has not been proffered. That is the situation. I think it is fair to say that the hon. Gentleman's point is not a point of order but a point of inquiry, which is not quite the same thing.
Paul Farrelly: Just to conclude my response to the intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), we need that vital time to assess the implications for all those people in those situations.
Sheila Gilmore: My hon. Friend appeared to say that separate and additional time would be required to deal with Wales and Scotland. I ask him to consider the fact that once the motion has been passed, if it is passed tomorrow, decisions will have been taken that will have impacted on those areas and that this is a major change from what went before. We therefore need time within the debate before a decision is made on the level of fees.
Paul Farrelly: Unfortunately, I am not responsible for scheduling the business of the House, but I think that the Leader of the House should be as generous as possible in allocating time to debate these issues. For instance, we need time to examine the views of young people. Let us think of the Youth Parliament-an institution that we have encouraged. We have invited it here to debate and its members have sent e-mails to Members of Parliament. We need time to debate the views of Ahmed Siddiqui, a 16-year-old who asked us not to give up on helping his generation to become everything they can be.
Steve McCabe: Is my hon. Friend rapidly coming to the same conclusion as I am-that, having heard from only four speakers in this rather short debate so far this evening, we have nevertheless heard a large number of issues raised and concerns expressed, so it is now time for the Leader of the House to realise that he should do justice to this debate, which requires not five hours but two days?
Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend mentioned that the Youth Parliament came here to debate the very same issue. Would it not be ironic if we spent less time in the House debating the subject than the Youth Parliament, because of the inadequacy of the motion?
"I am seriously considering giving up any hope of university education. Please think about that before you vote."
"I will be 18 when the policy comes into action. I am so worried about the rise in tuition fees. I am only going to be applying for the cheapest universities. Shouldn't I be making the most of my abilities, rather than going for the cheaper options?"
Mr George Howarth: Will my hon. Friend add to his list the views of the students of All Saints school in my constituency? A couple of weeks ago, they told me that they see themselves facing a triple whammy: the loss, for many of them, of the EMA; the scrapping of Aimhigher; and the removal of the opportunity to go into higher education.
Paul Farrelly: My right hon. Friend's point is well made. Traditional industrial areas, such as his and mine, are in need of all those schemes to encourage people and give them a fair chance to go to university. We need time to discuss that.
We need time to discuss other matters of which young people may not be fully aware. At the moment, they are just aware that it will cost them more to go to university, but perhaps they are not aware that some universities might not exist in future because they are threatened by teaching cuts. Without being parochial, I should like to discuss my university, Keele, where there will be an estimated 46% cut in the teaching grant, from £29 million to £13.5 million.
Robert Flello: My apologies. It is good to see the hon. Gentleman in his place; he has been a little bit on and off over the past few hours. [Interruption.] I hope he is saving himself for my speech later as well.
My point, of course, relates to the motion before us this evening. Would my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) care to comment on the fact that there are a huge number of organisations on which the House relies for information, support and knowledge that wish their views to be represented through their Members of Parliament, but that under the motion we will not have time to discuss properly the issues that they have raised with us?
Paul Farrelly: My hon. Friend is correct. There are wider issues involved in the contribution that higher education makes to local economies. For instance, in our area, Staffordshire university may face cuts across the board that will damage the great job it does in regeneration and teaching new ceramics skills and design.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend think that the motion will give the House sufficient time to discuss all the implications of the fact that the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) has announced tonight that he will not vote for the tuition fee increases?
Paul Farrelly: I fear that there will not be time to discuss everything that has been said on the issue, or even to fathom whether Members have the courage to turn up in the Chamber and abstain in person, rather than simply stay away.
Helen Goodman: Another consideration is the impact on universities of excluding able young people who simply cannot afford to go to the best universities. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is not just bad for the young people but bad for the universities? Will there be time for us to discuss it?
Paul Farrelly: I do agree, and I have already said that we will not have time to discuss the ins and outs and the evidence base of the national scholarship fund. We are told that 18,000 to 20,000 students might be helped, but we have not been told where those figures come from.
Thomas Docherty: I do not know whether Members have had a chance to read the House of Commons Information Office's excellent publication on statutory instruments, but I had a chance to pick up a copy yesterday. We will be discussing a statutory instrument tomorrow. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that in the House of Lords, determination of the time to be allocated to debate on statutory instruments is based on the number of speakers who have indicated that they wish to take part. Does my hon. Friend agree that, given that we will not have enough time tomorrow, the Procedure Committee of the House of Commons should consider again whether the system works for the purpose for which it is intended?
That, at the sitting on Thursday 9 December, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motion in the name of Secretary Vince Cable relating to Higher Education Higher Amount and, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union documents), on the Motion in the name of Secretary Vince Cable on the draft Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations not later than five hours after the commencement of proceedings on the first motion, or at 5.30 pm, whichever is the earlier; such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.
Thomas Docherty: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am very disappointed that we were cut off in our prime this evening, but tomorrow we have important business questions and I very much appreciate that the Leader of the House is a star draw. Will you ensure that important issues are not curtailed tomorrow lunchtime thanks to the actions of the Government deputy Chief Whip?
Mr Speaker: The Chair always seeks to ensure that there is a good opportunity at business questions for right hon. and hon. Members to raise issues of concern to them. I know the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to say now for how long business questions will run. That would be wholly unreasonable of him, and he is not an unreasonable man, but I note what he says, I bear it in mind and I will make what I hope is a reasonable judgment in the circumstances at the time.
Mr George Howarth: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the House, during the course of the debate, admonished my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) for not tabling an amendment to the order, but I should just like to quote from "Erskine May", page 675, on the section that deals with delegated legislation. It states:
"Though they may be moved as independent motions, motions which propose to treat delegated legislation, or other matters subject to proceedings in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, in a manner which would be outside the provisions of the parent statute, such as motions to refer instruments to select committees, or motions not to approve instruments or to approve them upon conditions, may not be moved in the House...as amendments to questions which arise in the normal way out of proceedings"-
Mr Speaker: Order. I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman- [ Interruption . ] Order. No, no. I am extremely grateful. He has had his say, and I am very grateful to him, but my concern is that he is confusing the statutory instrument for consideration tomorrow with the motion that we have been debating tonight. So, on the assumption that I am correct, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman would not dispute that I am, there is nothing further upon which I need to adjudicate-
Mr Howarth: Well, it is. I am very grateful, Mr Speaker, and of course I would not in any circumstances challenge any judgment that you made in this House. However, the quotation refers to proceedings, not necessarily to the instrument itself. If I am correct in that assumption, it may well be that the Leader of the House, who is an honourable man and would never knowingly mislead the House, may have been guilty of terminological inexactitude.
Mr Speaker: I think I am right in saying that the reference is to proceedings on an order, and if that be correct I stand by the proposition that I have just put to the House, which is that there is nothing further upon which I need to rule. But the right hon. Gentleman, although he has been here two decades or more, is, like we all are, on a learning curve, and, if in pursuit of those procedural matters he wishes to improve his knowledge, he can always consult the Clerks at the Table. He might find that a profitable exercise.
Steve McCabe: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. What advice would you give me when I try to deal tomorrow with constituents who will want to know why I am not able to represent their views in the debate on tuition fees because of the disgraceful timetable, and why it was not possible, when 30 Labour Members sought to catch your eye tonight, for us to continue to query the business motion? When my constituents ask me if that smacks of a coalition dictatorship, what advice should I give them?
Mr Speaker: We must not continue the debate that has just been had. I would say that the hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member, and the notion that he needs advice from me about communication with his constituents is as flattering to me as it is insulting to him.
Mr Tom Harris: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you take very seriously the reputation of this House and how we are perceived on television. Tonight, the many hundreds, or probably dozens, of people watching these events will be appalled by the Government's attempts to curtail free speech. Would it be in order, when you are using your judgment to draw up the speakers' list for tomorrow, to give precedence to Labour Members who voted in favour of free speech tonight and to put Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs, who have voted against free speech, further down the speaking order? That might not be within the rules of the House, but it would certainly be just.
Mr Speaker: That was an extraordinarily discursive attempted point of order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to anticipate the selection decisions of the Chair. He has made his point.
Roberta Blackman-Woods: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I sat assiduously through the earlier debate from 7 pm, hoping to raise issues on behalf of my constituents and the all-party parliamentary university group, but sadly I was prevented from doing so by the closure motion. I urge you to do as you usually do and seek to include as many Members as possible in tomorrow's debate.
Robert Flello: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Like my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods), I was in the Chamber for the entirety of tonight's debate. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch your eye before the ruthless move from those on the Government Benches to curtail tonight's business. Will you advise me, as a still relatively new Member of the House, on the procedural move whereby the closure motion was put by a Liberal Democrat member of the Government, who had not been in attendance for the debate? Is it normal that somebody can come in almost at the end of the debate and move a closure motion?
Kerry McCarthy: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that 49 Labour Members have applied to speak in tomorrow's debate and that the number for Government Members is between 20 and 30. It will obviously be very difficult for everyone to get in. Will you consider over night whether there ought to be a limit on Front-Bench contributions? We obviously want to hear about the proposals from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills or whomever he delegates to do his work for him, but it is important that Back Benchers get a chance too.
Mr Speaker: I cannot adjudicate on that matter now, nor give any advance indication to the hon. Lady on how the debate will run. I say only that I am sure that Members will want to be courteous to each other. We are all concerned that right hon. and hon. Members from the Back Benches should have a chance to air their views. That is right and proper, but I shall be here and I attach great importance to these debates in the interests of all Members.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was novel about the motion that we have just passed was not that it timetabled business-of course, that does happen-but that it timetabled business to come to an end half an hour before the moment of interruption. I cannot remember another occasion on which that has happened, but hon. Members might tell me that I am wrong. [ Interruption. ] I am sure that if the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Mr Randall) wants to say something further to my point of order, he will get to his feet in a minute. Will you advise me, Mr Speaker, on the best way to take this matter forward? Is it to write to the Procedure Committee? [ Interruption. ] I am not wasting time; it is the Government who are wasting time, because they said that they wanted to have that half an hour for voting. Voting
should take place after the moment of interruption, and it always has. They have taken half an hour off tomorrow's debate, and that is a serious matter.
Mr Speaker: What I say to the hon. Gentleman is twofold. First, he should not seek to continue the debate. Secondly, he rather anticipated my thoughts. If he feels strongly about this matter, a comprehensive memorandum from him to the Procedure Committee would be a very interesting memorandum to study. It would probably take him some little while to attend to it and I feel sure that that is just what he will want to do.
Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you can give me some direction as a new Member of the House. Many coach loads of students from Edinburgh are heading south as we speak, not only to attend marches tomorrow but to attend the debate in the House. The inclement weather in Scotland and the north of England is very much unprecedented, and I wonder whether it is in your gift, given that the Government have just curtailed tomorrow's debate, to delay proceedings at any point if people are stuck and unable to take part.
That the draft Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, which were laid before this House on 8 November, be approved. -(Bill Wiggin .)
That, for the purposes of the revised draft National Policy Statements on energy laid before the House on 18 October, the designated date in Standing Order No. 152H(5) (Planning: National Policy Statements) shall be the fourteenth day before the expiry of the relevant period defined under section 9(6) of the Planning Act 2008. -(Bill Wiggin.)
That the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (S.I., 2010, No. 2835) and the Rent Officers (Housing Benefit Functions) Amendment Order 2010 (S.I., 2010, No. 2836), be referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee. -(Bill Wiggin.)
Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I am presenting a timely petition to the House tonight. It was gathered by school students across Wirral, who recently demonstrated peacefully outside Wallasey Conservative headquarters and marched to the town hall to register their strong objection to the Government's proposals on the educational maintenance allowance and tuition fees. It is signed by 875 pupils, and I strongly agree with it.
To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
The Humble Petition of Sarah Smith and students from schools across Wirral,
Sheweth, that the Petitioners believe that the Government's abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the proposals to lift the cap on University fees will prevent students from poorer backgrounds having full and fair access to education.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House rejects any proposals to remove the cap on University tuition fees and urges the Government to enhance equality of opportunity and equal access to education instead of cutting off support for students and creating some of the most expensive tuition fees in the World.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.
Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): I rise to speak about acute mental health service provision in Lancashire. Since August it has become clear that the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has a clear strategy of closing adult in-patient care units for people with serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Initially, the plan was to be realised and carried out in secret, without the knowledge or consent of the democratically elected governors of the trust. However, once the staff at the Avondale unit of the Royal Preston hospital became aware of the fact that patients were being refused admission or sent for care at alternative facilities, they leaked the information to the local newspaper, the Lancashire Evening Post. Very quickly, campaigners and myself decided to take on the trust-if we can call it a "trust"-and fight the case. The people of Lancashire are enraged about closures across the county, such as that of the Pharos unit in Fleetwood earlier this year, and now the planned closure of the Avondale unit before the new year.
In order to fight the closures, the campaign organisation SAFE-Save Avondale For Everyone-was set up and is led by a courageous and determined set of activists: Andy Hanson, Alison Ball, Fiona Jones, Nadia Southworth, Steve Weyer and Lisa Daley. Along with many others, they have taken on the might of the autocratic managers with six-figure salaries who have no respect whatever for the democratically elected governors of the trust, or the people of Lancashire whom they are employed to serve.
Preston needs the Avondale unit, which has served and saved many lives over the decades: it has saved people from suicide and serious mental illness. Everyone in Preston knows somebody or has a relative who has needed treatment at the unit. As the coalition cuts begin to bite more people will become unemployed, which will cause more mental illness. Preston is a military town, with Army and Territorial Army barracks. Many armed forces personnel will return to Preston from conflict zones around the world with different degrees of mental illness. Returning forces will need that facility. Preston also has many students, many of whom suffer from mental illness because of the stresses and strains of exams-and, of course, student debt, which is topical at the moment. I understand that the Minister will be absent tomorrow; he will be with the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) in Torbay because he does not wish to vote for the coalition's legislation-but that is by the way.
The closures mean that extremely vulnerable patients with mental illness from Preston will be forced to travel to Blackpool, Chorley or Ormskirk for treatment and care, despite the Government's promise to ring-fence spending on the NHS. That promise is not worth the paper it is written on, because the trust is not only cutting spending this year, but will cut spending across Lancashire by £33 million next year.
"To improve the lives of the people we serve and ensure that mental health matters across the whole community"
"To deliver high-quality, person-centred, compassionate services for mental health".
Let us check the evidence on that. What do people want in Preston? We want local integrated in-patient and community care services; choice in accessing local services, and for that choice to be respected; and the continuation of local in-patient services in the city of Preston, which is the capital of Lancashire and its administrative centre. We have overwhelming local support: I have a petition with thousands of signatures that I will present to the Minister following the debate. The petition is very clear. Everybody in Preston and the surrounding areas wants the Avondale unit to be saved.
We accuse the funding bodies, the primary care trusts and the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust of driving through hidden changes that will have profoundly detrimental psychological, economic and social effects on the people of Preston. There will be many other downsides. For example, the Lancashire Evening Post recently reported on the anger at the travel ordeal that patients will face in future. On 14 July it said:
"Mental health patients may have to travel from Preston to Chorley following the closure of...facilities in the city".
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