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Colonial Students (Hostels)

Volume 486: debated on Wednesday 18 April 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take in the interest of colonial students, residing at present in the hostels to be closed by the British Council at Leeds and elsewhere.

The British Council is responsible for the accommodation of colonial students, and I am informed that it will make arrangements for the accommodation of any student who may be displaced by the closing of these hostels. There were only five colonial students in residence at the Manchester hostel. Alternative accommodation arrangements for four of them has been made by the British Council. The fifth one preferred to find his own flat. The Leeds hostel will not close until July. There are eight colonial students residing at the hostel at the moment. Arrangements for their rehousing will be made by the British Council in good time.

Is it not true that my right hon. Friend's Department transferred these responsibilities only 12 months ago? If the Council are not now prepared to shoulder these responsibilities, will he again assume responsibility for these students?

That is a hypothetical question, but there is every evidence that the Council are carrying out their responsibilities in an admirable manner.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the present financial arrangements between His Majesty's Government and the British Council in respect of the provision and supervision of hostels for colonial students; for how many centres the British Council are or have been responsible to his Department; for how many students accommodation by this means has been or is now being provided; and what is the extent and nature of alternative arrangements for students made by the British Council.

A sum of £425,000 has been set aside from the funds which are, or will be, available under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts to cover the expenses of the British Council's work for accommodation and welfare of colonial students from January, 1950, to March, 1954. This includes provision for one hostel for men students and one for women students in London, and, for the present, for the maintenance of a hostel for men students at Edinburgh and another at Newcastle. These hostels house altogether about 300 students. Most colonial students live in university accommodation or in private hostels, in lodgings or with families. The Council has staff and arrangements for helping students to find such accommodation in every university centre in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

Is the Minister satisfied with the arrangements made some time ago regarding the function and power of the British Council to meet the needs of these students, and can he also say how often the British Council have reported to him on their progress in this respect?

I have every confidence in the British Council's ability to provide this accommodation, and I have no reason to suppose that they are not provided at present.

Is not accommodation for only 300 students grossly inadequate in view of the number of students visiting this country? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that this is one of the most serious social problems of the City of London?

I do not consider that accommodation for students in special hostels is necessarily the ideal solution of the problem. It is much better for them to be housed in universities or found accommodation with families, and the British Council make every effort to do that.

Does my right hon. Friend realise the difficulties of colonial students in London and other places, and will he institute an inquiry to see if something more cannot be done for them?

Would the Minister kindly reply to the second part of my supplementary question, in which I asked him how often the British Council reported to him on the progress they make in this direction?

We are continually in touch with the British Council, who keep us informed from time to time as cases arise.