Ellesmere Port & Neston MP, Justin Madders opposed Government cuts to Student Maintenance this week, after a vote on the issue was secured by the Labour party.
Currently, university students from families with a household income of £25,000 or less are entitled to a grant to cover living costs of £3,387 per year. This grant then decreases as the family’s income increases and come to an end when a household earns more than £42,620.
Following the change, students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds will instead receive this additional support as a loan, which will need to be repaid. This means that the poorest students will now leave university with the highest levels of debt.
The measure, which did not appear in the Conservative manifesto was initially decided by just 18 MPs, after the Government decided to use the Statutory Instrument (SI) process to force through the measure. SI’s are decided in a committee rather than by the entire House of Commons.
Justin reacted angrily to this decision and raised the matter with the Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP on 14th January, saying:
“Every piece of evidence shows that scrapping student grants will deter students from poorer backgrounds. Regardless of the merits of the proposal, is this not also about democracy? The proposal, which did not appear in the Conservative manifesto, will affect more than 500,000 people, and it is going to be decided in a back room by a small number of people. Is that not a shoddy way to do business? Is it not about time that the Government showed the courage of their convictions and allowed a full debate and a full vote on the proposal on the Floor of this House?”
On 19th January, Labour used the ‘Opposition Day’ procedure to force a full debate on the issue followed by a vote by all MPs, where the Conservatives again used their majority to approve the measure.
Following the vote, Justin said:
“Students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds will now leave University with a higher level of debt that anyone else, owing up to £53,000 plus interest when they graduate.
The fact that the Conservatives didn’t include this measure in their manifesto is an affront to democracy – nobody voted for the poorest students to be saddled with this level of debt. What made matters even worse was the fact that they were too cowardly to even defend themselves in a full debate on the issue, or even to hold a full vote.
Once again we have a Government standing up for the richest in society, while burdening those from poorer backgrounds with a lifetime of debt.”