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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

My brother is the vice-principal of a sixth-form college, and I have asked him that question. He says that it would be an impossible task for his college to decide between one student and another. Colleges want to help students, but they would have to make those decisions with an inadequate fund that covers only a tenth of the amount that it currently covers. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion would mean passing on an impossible problem, but I welcome the spirit of his remarks. He will notice that I have deliberately moved a broad motion that invites the support of all hon. Members who want the Government to think again. It sounds as if he is one of them.

Let us not throw out everything about EMA that is a success, and that brings me to the economic case for keeping it. In short, EMA is good not just for the individuals who receive it, but for all of us in building a higher-skilled and more prosperous society, in which the costs of social failure are lower. Yesterday, the chief executive of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers called on the Government to rethink their decision. He said:

"Tough decisions have to be made, but the UK economy will increasingly need skilled engineers and technicians over the next few years. Our long-term economic health depends on making the right decisions now."

Haroon Chowdry of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that even taking into account a dead-weight cost of 88%, the costs of EMA are "completely offset". He said:

"The initial outlay of the EMA policy is likely to be more than recouped by the increase in productivity that we expect to result from the 16- and 17-year-olds staying on in education for longer".

Has the Secretary of State made an economic impact assessment of his policy alongside an equality impact assessment? I have not seen one. Has he assessed how EMA helps to build a skilled work force that benefits us all? If we take that support away, we lose not just those skills-taxpayers must also face the higher costs of social failure as young people drop out of education. Has he made an assessment of that?

On the Government's own figures, around 78,000 are unlikely to be able to stay in further education without EMA. We cannot know for sure whether all those young people will end up unemployed if they lose EMA, but given today's figures showing record youth unemployment, it does not look good for them. Will not the Government have to provide support for them in some other form-perhaps a less constructive form-when they have reduced hope for the future?