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Lord Adonis: My Lords, as my noble friend is aware, the £40 million that we announced last November will proceed to be allocated in any event. It is probably best to draw his other comments to the attention of my honourable friend the Minister responsible for universities.

Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, I declare an interest as Chancellor of the Open University, the largest university in the country with part-time students. Will the Minister press the funding council to complete the review of the teaching funding methodology in accordance with the commitments given by the Government at Report stage of the Higher Education Bill on 14 June 2004? My concern and that of many of my colleagues is that earlier commitments may not be adhered to or may well be delayed, for reasons that are not known to me but may be known to the Minister. The part-time sector needs to know the date on which the review will be completed and those promises fulfilled.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her work as Chancellor of the Open University. I know that the whole House is strongly supportive of the Open University, which is one of the greatest creations of Labour governments past. The consultation for the review has been completed. HEFCE is considering its recommendations, and Ministers will take full account of them soon.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, we welcome what the Minister has said about financial support for part-time students, but does he agree that there is in practice a decrease in spending, as the opportunities for lifelong learning are diminishing daily and all over the country the number of part-time courses for students in higher education is being cut? Will he comment?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the facts speak for themselves. Nationally, part-time undergraduate student numbers
 
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rose by 45 per cent between 1997 and 2004, thanks to the support that this Labour Government give to the universities.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a lot more money would be available for part-time students in higher education if enough of the poor quality courses, particularly in the non-technic departments of the former polytechnics and in the minor universities, were simply closed down?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we believe in the market when it comes to such matters, and these are courses that students choose to attend. They are also subject to inspection, and I do not think that the noble Lord can make statements about whole institutions being of poor quality.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the proposals put forward by HEFCE for the new teaching fund allocations work very much to the advantage of part-time institutions and are part of the mechanism to which the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, referred, of offsetting the advantage of top-up fees for full-time institutions? Will he make sure that pressure is put on HEFCE to bring the new proposals forward now rather than delaying them for three years, as has been proposed?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I stress that HEFCE is considering those matters very seriously. The noble Baroness and other noble Lords should not read anything into the fact that it is considering them properly.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, does the Minister think that the undertakings given during the passage of the Higher Education Bill to deal with the disadvantage that institutions with large numbers of part-time students would suffer as a result of the introduction of top-up fees have now been met?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I believe that we are in the process of meeting them, including by the measures I set out in answer to the original Question.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I must declare an interest as Chancellor of the University of East London. Thanks to the additional funds that have been promised by the Government we have a record number of enrolments for our part-time courses. However, details of the process by which students will be able to claim help in September this year remain unclear. When will the forms and the necessary guidance notes to apply for help be printed and published?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I will respond to the noble Lord without delay on that matter. However, he is right about the increase in enrolments. Enrolments for
 
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undergraduate courses in the Open University have increased by 32 per cent since 1997, which is a great tribute to the work of the OU.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, what benefit, if any, will students who are above the normal university age range get from the new proposals from HEFCE?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, part-time students tend to be older—I am told that the average age of part-time students is 36—so they will gain considerably from the new arrangements that I have set out.

Energy: Renewable

3.15 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

What developments there have been since 2004 in tidal and wave energy production; and what research and development funding they have allocated to these renewable sources of energy.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, since 2004, £11.6 million has been committed across 13 projects to support research and development into wave and tidal energy through the DTI's technology programme. In addition, £50 million has been allocated to a marine renewables deployment fund that will support the first small grid-connected pre-commercial demonstrations. The technologies have also been supported through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's Supergen marine consortium and the Carbon Trust's marine energy challenge.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. Does he accept that his previous reservations about tidal lagoons in particular are no longer valid, since Ofgem's independent report found that the equivalent annual cost of tidal lagoon power was £2 less than for offshore wind? Given the predictable nature of the tides and the environmental benefits of constructing tidal lagoons, should not the DTI be fully behind them now?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I do not change my views about tidal lagoons at all. Every time I look at the issue I am more convinced that the costs are still way beyond what one can find elsewhere. This is a mature technology which we know a lot about. It is quite easy to cost, and the costs come out at about four times the figure that the noble Baroness mentioned.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, does my noble friend recall that, some years ago, it was estimated that the Severn barrage could reduce Britain's carbon emissions by 3 per cent and supply 6 per cent of the electricity needs of England and Wales? Is it not time
 
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for a re-examination of the case for a Severn barrage, taking account of Britain's increased dependence on imported energy; the development of markets in renewables and greenhouse gas emission savings; intensified concern about the impact of climate change in terms of flooding; and the reduced cost of long-term capital?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we looked again at the Severn barrage project as part of the last energy White Paper. The facts remain very similar. It would produce about 5 per cent of the UK energy needs, but it would cost £14 billion. It could not be brought forward on a commercial basis in the private sector, and I believe that it still raises strong environmental concerns. We recognise that wave and tidal barrages have the potential to make significant reductions in the long term—after 2020—and we will continue to explore the opportunities, but it does not yet seem to come within the right parameters.

Lord Lang of Monkton: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, although wave and tidal power may eventually contribute something worth while to the energy requirements of this country, it is highly unlikely that wind power ever will, although at the same time it desecrates the countryside? Does he accept that any energy policy that does not have a major nuclear component will never succeed?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, there are a number of different points in that. I do not agree with the noble Lord; I believe that wind power can provide quite a substantial amount of our energy needs—probably up to 20 per cent. After that, it becomes much more expensive. The question whether it is sensible to have a nuclear component has been discussed many times in the House. There are differences of opinion, but many people feel that a diversity of sources is very important.


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