§ 7. Mr. Ainger
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many further education students have had their benefits suspended in each of the last two years. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Roger Evans)
This information is not available.
§ Mr. Ainger
As the Minister knows, because I have written to him on a number of occasions—as, I am sure, have many other hon. Members—part-time further education students have had their benefits suspended. Does he agree that that is a scandal, bearing in mind the fact that both his party and the Opposition want to see a highly skilled and highly educated work force? We are actually encouraging people to give up their studies in an effort to make ends meet by living on benefit. Are the Government not truly encouraging people to be totally dependent on benefit?
§ Mr. Evans
No. The 21-hour rule in income support is a concession to the normal requirement that people should be available for work as a condition for benefit. It allows unemployed people to occupy their time in part with useful study while being available for and actively seeking work. It was never intended to provide financial support for people who are primarily concerned with continuing their education. The rule has applied to income support and its predecessor, supplementary benefit, since 1971.
§ Mr. Hawkins
Can my hon. Friend confirm that unemployed people will continue to be able to study part 1300 time provided that they remain available for and actively seeking work, and that those arrangements will continue under the jobseeker's allowance?
§ Mr. Evans
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The arrangements will continue under the jobseeker's allowance with the exception that instead of the 21-hour rule, which includes time for homework, there will in due course be provision for 16 guided learning hours, to reflect the changes in Further Education Funding Council-funded courses. It is estimated that the same number of people will benefit under the new rules as under the old.