Peer finds student union cuts deplorable

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THE GOVERNMENT faced criticism from supporters in the House of Lords last night over its proposals to reform teacher training and student unions.

Lord Beloff, a Conservative peer, said plans to restrict the public funding of student unions to welfare, sport, internal representation and catering were philosophically outrageous and intellectually disreputable. 'By putting forward this Bill the Government has done something which I would have thought was impossible. It has united the entire university community, from the most reactionary vice-chancellor to the most left-wing student, in unanimous objection,' he said.

The Bill, which is designed to limit the political activities of student unions and to set up an agency to make teacher training more school-based, will face fierce opposition from Tories in both Houses.

During last night's unopposed Second Reading in the Lords, ministers were criticised for failing to publish full details of the reforms.

Lord Judd, opening the debate for the opposition, said that in the words of Shakespeare's Richard III, the Bill was 'deformed, unfinished, and sent before its time into this breathing world scarce half made up'. He added: 'The flesh is in the regulations which are yet to be seen.'

But Baroness Blatch, Minister of State for Education, said that the regulations would be produced before the Bill reached its Committee Stage. 'Students have everything to gain and nothing to fear. These reforms will . . . offer students extended personal choice, democracy and accountability,' she said.