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Mandatory Student Awards

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 7 December 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the percentage increase in real terms of mandatory student awards between October 1979 and October 1982; and if he will make a statement.

The main rate of mandatory award for students living away from home outside London fell by 7 per cent. in real terms between October 1979 and October 1982.

Does not the offer made by the Minister of a 4 per cent. increase to students, plus the changes in parental and travel allowances, mean that there will be yet another fall in students' standards of living? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that hits hardest at students from the poorest families?

That depends on inflation next year. The poorest students are not in danger of being hit, but those whose parents do not fully meet the parental contributions are.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the greatest service that he can provide is to increase the level at which the parental means test bites, so that the 9 per cent. increase announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that regard for the coming academic year is of material help and benefit to the most needy students?

Our highest priority is to try to improve the level of the parental contribution threshold. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said.

Assuming that the award that has been announced will be the last one for this Parliament, how much worse off in real terms will students be after the period of office of this Administration?

That depends entirely on the rate of inflation next year. A 4 per cent. increase has been made in the award. The best estimate is that there will be 5 per cent. inflation next year. If so, that will mean another 1 per cent., if that is a sum that the hon. Gentleman can do.