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Education Maintenance Allowance

Part of Opposition Day — [9th allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 1:24 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Secretary of State (Education and Election Co-ordinator) 1:24 pm, 19th January 2011

I said that I am prepared to sit down and talk about making savings as long as we maintain the principle of a national scheme that supports the kids who most need support. I made the same offer on school sports. I will have that discussion, but I am saying to the Secretary of State do not just dismantle the whole scheme and lose all the benefits that come with it. If we had been asked to make a reduction in EMA commensurate with the rest of public spending, we would have struggled to argue against it, but that is not what the Government propose. The hon. Gentleman stood alongside the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State at the last election promising young people that they would keep EMA. They are the ones with the questions to answer.

The truth is that the Secretary of State cannot will the ends without the means. That will not happen. However talented those young people are, they cannot live off thin air. They cannot have a part-time job and walk miles to college and still get straight A's. I wonder whether he has much idea of what their lives are like. In 2003, he wrote an article in The Times that acquires a new significance in the light of this debate. He wrote that

"anyone put off from attending a good university by fear of that debt doesn't deserve to be at any university in the first place."

Those are difficult sentiments for an Education Secretary to be associated with, as are these, which appear in the same article:

"Some people will, apparently, be put off applying to our elite institutions by the prospect of taking on a debt of this size. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is all to the good."

How genuine is his commitment to those people who want to get in to Oxbridge?

I have worries about the Secretary of State's elitist instincts, but I read in The Times last week another interesting piece-from Mrs Gove-which contains insights from home that raise further questions about whether he is living in the same world as the rest of us- [ Interruption. ] He should listen to this. She says:

"Like all angst-ridden working mothers, I live in terror of upsetting my cleaner."

Angst-ridden mums in Leigh talk of little else. I sympathise with Mrs Gove's predicament, but I wonder whether the Secretary of State could pass on a bit of advice to all the wives of his Cabinet colleagues who fret about the same curses of modern living. May I respectfully suggest that the best way to stay on the right side of the cleaner might be not to clean the oven oneself, but to press one's other half not to remove the cleaner's kids' EMA?