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Citizens Charters

Volume 227: debated on Monday 28 June 1993

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37.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans he has to introduce further charters during 1993; and if he will make a statement.

Thirty-two charters have been produced so far. New charters during 1993 will include the further and higher education charters. In addition, the Benefits Agency charter and parents charter will be updated and improved.

I particularly welcome the further and higher education charters. May I ask for more action on schools charters and particularly the publication of league tables for school attendance, allowing for a proper value added section? Is not it legitimate and right that parents should know which schools achieve high attendance? Is not the charter a good way of achieving that? In my right hon. Friend's opinion, why does the Labour party oppose providing information about schools? The Labour party does not care about parents' right to know.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The proposal to produce league tables will be one of the motivating forces for improving our education service. That is true whether it relates to educational achievement in its academic sense or to truancy. In respect of the latter point, I note that a report was published today which is very helpful.

With regard to my hon. Friend's point about value added tables, of course we believe that they would be the best kind of tables to have. However, as my hon. Friend will understand, it will take time to develop a database for those tables to work. In the meantime, we see absolutely no reason to deny parents the kind of information that would allow them to take the proper action in the best interests of their children's education.

Will the further and higher education charters include the right for students to claim housing benefit and income support during summer recesses? Some of my constituents will have less thanĀ£5 a week to live on this summer after they have paid their rent during the college recess. That is an unacceptable imposition of poverty on our youth and on the development of their educational potential in respect of industry. If the further and higher education charters are to mean something, there must be a right of access to housing benefit and income support for students when they are not at college.

Absolutely not. Housing benefit and income support are designed for people who need them because they are in poverty or in poor circumstances of one kind or another. They are not designed as a giveaway for students in our society. I believe that it is a very bad idea to start young people off on a dependent mode as they begin their careers.