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Aled Roberts urges Education Minister to reveal legal advice

October 26, 2011 1:41 PM

Aled Roberts AM has called for the Education Minister to share the legal advice his Government has received regarding student funding for EU nationals.

A new loophole, which has emerged concerning advice given to the Scottish Government, suggests that the Welsh Government may have to pay for EU students wanting to study in England or risk breaching EU law forbidding preferential treatment.

On the 12th October 2011, Eluned Parrott AM raised the issue of the advice given to the Scottish Government in the Business and Enterprise Committee, but was told by the Education Minister that no such legal advice had been given to the Scottish Government.

This is despite the fact that on 27th January 2000, the then Scottish Deputy Minister for Education stated "Given the risks of challenge by other EU nationals and based on the best advice available, we produced the proposals that are before us today". Furthermore, the 'Cubie Report', set up by the Scottish Government to advise on student finance in Scotland, concluded that "the best information available is that there was a serious risk of successful challenge on the grounds of discrimination against EU nationals attending UK institutions outwith Scotland".

Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Minister, commented:

"There a number of people who are concerned that the Welsh Government will have to pay for EU students wanting to study in England. It is possible that if the Government does not offer support, it risks breaching EU law forbidding preferential treatment.

"We are asking for clarity on the issue. I have written to the Education Minister requesting for him to reveal the exact legal advice that he has been given regarding this issue. I understand that this advice might be confidential, if that is the case then it would be appropriate for the Minister to allow the other party leaders in the Assembly to see it and judge it for themselves, as was the approach taken by Rhodri Morgan in 2005. Once he has done this hopefully we can put this matter to rest. It is still unclear if the Welsh Government is liable for EU students' fees. Without knowing all of the facts, how are we expected to properly scrutinise the Minister's budget?".