Welsh Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 25th February 2010.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:37 pm, 25th February 2010

I am very alarmed at those statistics; in fact, I find them horrifying. The true state of the public finances is appalling. Who will pay for this? Frankly, it will not be our generation; instead, it will be the nation's young people, and the children after them. Indeed, I think that one reason why there has been such a tone of complacency on our public finances this afternoon is that it is not the generations represented in this Chamber today who will end up picking up the bill.

Young people are among the biggest victims of the current recession. We need only consider the increase in youth unemployment in the past two years to realise that. They are victims of this recession not only because of unemployment, however; they are victims of an unsustainable and irresponsible increase in public spending that has brought us to this position, because the truth is that, contrary to what the Secretary of State tried to make us believe, the massive deficit we are facing is not just a result of the banking crisis. There was a large, growing and unsustainable structural deficit in the public finances even before the bank bail-out, and that did not get addressed. Young people will end up paying for this.

Two weeks ago, I spoke to a year 12 group at Ysgol Bro Gwaun in Fishguard as part of its Welsh baccalaureate studies. The students told me that in a previous class they had been addressed by a speaker from Swansea university, who had given them a very sobering message indeed about how tough things will be, particularly this year and next year, for young people wanting to go to university, because of the cuts that have been visited on the higher education budget. The truth is that Welsh young people will have to fight harder than before; they will have to achieve higher grades than ever before to win places at university. Many hundreds, or thousands, of Welsh prospective students will find out later this year that they cannot pursue their desired course at university or that they have not got a place at a college or university of their choice. Many will instead find themselves adding to the youth unemployment statistics. The truth is that the higher education budget has been singled out for a massive cut already. The Secretary of State did not elaborate on that, but he is a member of the Government and Cabinet that made that decision three weeks ago. Almost £1 billion will be cut from the English higher education budget over the next three years, and that will have a direct impact on Welsh prospective students.

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