MPs to fight for grants

March 27, 1998

MPS ARE expected to confront the government over the abolition of grants and introduction of tuition fees when the committee stage of the Teaching and Higher Education Bill begins on Tuesday.

But the government, enjoying a majority on the standing committee, will focus on overturning three Lords' amendments. These gave the General Teaching Council, which is set up by the bill, powers to act independently of the secretary of state: sought to retain student maintenance grants: and ended the anomaly of English and Welsh-domiciled students, but not Scots or other Europeans, paying for a fourth year at a Scottish university.

An education department spokeswoman confirmed that the the Lords' amendments were top of the hit list. It is possible that the government will amend the original phrasing to secure agreement when the bill returns to the Lords.

Only three Conservative amendments, concentrating on GTC membership, had been tabled as The THES went to press. Party sources accused the government of trying to pressure the opposition by running the bill through the Commons together with the School Standards and Framework Bill. They said that shadow education ministers were forced to concentrate on the schools' bill which reached its report stage on Tuesday this week.

The Liberal Democrats have put down amendments to retain grants to cover tuition fees, postpone the introduction of tuition fees until 2002, extend loans and grants to part-time students, limit the government's ability to prescribe which courses are eligible for funding and to ensure that fee income is additional money for use exclusively by higher education. There are also several amendments that reduce the secretary of state's powers in relation to the establishment and operation of the GTC.

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