I shall certainly be here in parliament today and will vote asking the Government to abandon this dreadful change. This additional burden could very well put off young people, especially from poorer homes, from applying for university. Students from homes in England are already facing student fees of £9,000 per year, (as opposed to students from homes in Wales, whose fees have a ceiling of £3,800 per year because the Labour Welsh Government funds the difference).
The Conservative Government has been very sneaky about this change. They actually passed the legislation for this change last Thursday 14th January in a small committee with only a dozen MPs on it – and these small committees always have a Government (that is Conservative) majority – our Labour MPs on the committee voted against the change. By doing this in committee, they have avoided a proper debate for all MPs in the Chamber, and they have saved most of their own Conservative MPs from having to show their true colours by voting for this dreadful change.
So today, we are using one of our Opposition debate days to debate the Labour motion “That this House calls upon the Government to abandon its policy on replacing maintenance grants for lower income students with loans.” All Labour MPs will be voting for the Government to abandon this change, but, because we do not have a majority, the only way we can win on this is if some Conservative MPs rebel and vote with us, and we will be putting pressure on them to do so.
What happens in Wales will be up to Welsh Government, and the Labour Welsh Government has no plans to remove maintenance grants for poorer students and have always maintained that Welsh students’ access to higher education should not depend on their ability to pay and they should not be burdened with unmanageable levels of debt. So it is absolutely vital that we keep the Conservatives OUT of the Welsh Government when we have the elections this May, or they will force this change from grants to loans on Welsh students too.
I can assure you that we Labour MPs will do our best to get the Government to abandon this change.