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Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 98:

Page 12, line 37, leave out ("or") and insert ("and").

The noble Baroness said: I do not intend to keep anybody very long on this amendment. It is a short amendment. It is to do with regulations on grants for fees. All we are saying is that we want to have better control over the regulations and, rather than it being a case of the Secretary of State or each House approving, we want it to be all of those things.

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I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for supporting this amendment. I do not intend to say any more. We had this debate before during the last Session of this Committee and tonight. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Whitty: I will try to be equally brief. The noble Baroness ought to recognise that this is really a step too far. We all recognise the anxiety and understand that there is a wish to restrict the freedom of the Government to increase the parental contribution. We accept that and we have written into Clause 16(5) that we will not increase it above the rate of inflation except by affirmative resolution of Parliament.

This amendment would not allow the Government to increase it even by a tiny amount, well below the rate of inflation. We ought to recognise the consequence that it would also not allow us to increase it above the rate of inflation, even were Parliament to approve it. I understand the need for restrictions but there are times when the belt and braces turn into a straitjacket. Allow us just a little flexibility. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw this amendment.

Baroness Maddock: I am not particularly surprised by the reply from the Minister on that amendment. It is something that students are extremely concerned about, as to what will happen to fees in the future. I know that we are not directly talking about that situation, but it is affected. It is something that people care about. If it is to be changed, I suggest that there ought to be a wide debate.

I do not necessarily believe that it is a step too far. My personal view is that we are here to offer constructive opposition, dare I say, and to make sure that the Government do not go that step too far. I am sure we will return to this again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 99:

Page 12, line 40, leave out ("(6)(a)") insert ("(5)(a)").

The noble Lord said: I rise with an unusual measure of confidence on this amendment. I have a feeling that I may be about to score my first victory in this Bill and thus extend the spirit of constructive opposition a little further.

In looking at Clause 16(6) for its meaning I noted that it begins,

    "For the purposes of subsection (6)(a)",

and I searched hard for that subsection. I cannot find it. I believe it would be more appropriate for it to refer to subsection (5)(a). If we go on a couple of subsections further, subsection (8) refers in the second line to "subsection (8)". That confused me a little since I cannot believe that governments bring forward Bills that have mistakes in them. They may be mistaken in their intent, but not in their content. These are errors in the Bill.

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I tabled the amendments confident of victory tonight and in the spirit of constructive opposition. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: It is rare that a Government Minister is able to accept a proposed amendment not just in principle, but also in its drafting. It is therefore all the more pleasurable to be able to accept two at once. I am grateful to the ever vigilant noble Lord, Lord Tope, for spotting the mistakes and providing us with an early opportunity to correct them. I recommend that the Committee accepts the amendments.

Lord Tope: I am grateful to the Minister. Perhaps we could quit now!

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 100:

Page 12, line 48, leave out ("(8)") and insert ("(7)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 101:

Page 12, line 49, at end insert--
("(9) A statutory instrument containing the first regulations under any provision of this section shall be laid in draft before, and shall be subject to approval by resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(10) A statutory instrument containing the second or subsequent regulations under any provision of this section which is made without a draft having been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 101, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 118, 119 and 134. These amendments respond directly to the 9th Report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Select Committee. This Chamber has a 100 per cent. record in always responding to the recommendations of that committee and that record should not be broken tonight. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness, having turned the corner in accepting an amendment rather than rejecting it, will also consider that that is appropriate in this case.

I believe that the Government will see the sense in the amendment. The case is well argued in the report and my noble friend Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn earlier read the words verbatim. They are on the record and I shall not repeat them. But it is not only the possibility of an increase in fees that concerns me. Clause 16 is an extremely important clause in the Bill and the scope for change--if we simply leave it to the Secretary of State and regulations and do not go down the road of allowing Parliament to have a say--will be a step too far. For that reason I hope that the Government will see that it is only fair that, should any modifications or changes be made, Parliament should have an opportunity to debate them. The Committee will also see that two amendments refer to making the same changes to those clauses that refer to Scotland.

A great deal of correspondence has passed between myself and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in relation to the use of regulations and it may be helpful for me to use this opportunity to refer to a Written Answer that appeared on 21st January in response to a

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Question tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, relating to tuition fees and the way in which the powers can be used. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, answered,

    "The Education (Mandatory Awards) Regulations to be made for the 1998-99 academic year will provide for a student's resources to be set first against any tuition fees payable by him. The regulations are made under Section 1(5) of the Education Act 1962".

I have Section 1(5) of the Education Act in front of me. I will read it for the purpose of the point I wish to make:

    "The provisions of subsection (3) of this section and of the regulations made in accordance with that subsection (except so much of those provisions as relates to the conditions and exceptions subject to which the duty imposed by subsection (1) of this section is to have effect) shall apply in relation to awards under the last preceding subsection as they apply in relation to awards under subsection (1) of this section".

Fees were not charged in those days. The fees that are referred to are fees that the Government paid on behalf of each student. The fees now being charged out to students are a very different matter. Using these regulations does call into question the legitimacy of this. Noble Lords will see from the final page of the Bill that the Education Act 1962 is to be repealed in its entirety. It says that the whole Act will be repealed. In letters from the noble Baroness, she says that it will only be partially repealed and that it may not be repealed immediately. Clause 17 says:

    "Regulations under Section 16 shall make such transitional provision and savings in connection with the repeal by this Act of any relevant enactment as the Secretary of State considers necessary or expedient".

Why repeal the whole Act if you put into this Act a clause that says you can save any provision of the Act you are about to repeal? Why repeal the 1962 Act at all if we are then allowing a clause in this Act to save any provision? It goes on to say:

    "In this section "relevant enactment" means any enactment contained in (a) the Education Act 1962, (b) Section 3 of the Education Act 1973, or (c) the Education (Student Loans) Act 1990".

This is incredibly confusing. My reason for this point is not just to say that if there are to be changes to Clause 16 they must come before both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure. I think that all of us in this House would like to see a cast-iron guarantee for the interests and the protection of students receiving loans and grants and fees under the existing system well into the future, both for the existing students and those students who will come in under the gap year scheme in 1998-99; and that everything about the provision for protection of those students is properly guaranteed and has a legitimate basis in law so that that protection carries on alongside and in tandem with protection for students who will be the subject of the new system. I beg to move.

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