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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 respect the right hon. Gentleman's intentions on this issue, but what he has just said will not be good enough for young people listening to this debate whose lives will be directly affected by the loss of EMA. A vague promise to work with the Secretary of State, with an unspecified amount of money to produce an unspecified result, is not going to do the job for them. The Lib Dems have to decide whether they want to keep the benefits of this successful scheme. Do they want the same numbers of young people in their constituencies to enter further education, or are they prepared to take a risk on this Secretary of State and this Tory-led Government?

Today's debate provides the House with an opportunity to change the message that this Government are sending out to young people. They feel bewildered and angry that they have been singled out to bear the brunt of deficit reduction, and do not understand why they in particular are to face higher costs than generations before. In Newham, they ask why they are paying with their life chances for the mistakes of others a few miles away in the City of London. In Leigh, they cannot understand why the Government want to turn the clock back to an education system based on social class, with places at university going only to those with money and connections. Today, we can show that we are listening to them. We can make a stand for equality of opportunity in education, and stop these moves towards a more elitist education system. We can call a halt to this all-out attack on the aspirations of those who have least, and keep hope alive for the hundreds of thousands of young people who will be cut adrift if the Government get their way. We can tell all young people that we value them, and stop a Government who are gambling with their life chances. I commend this motion to the House.