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Education Maintenance Allowance

Part of Opposition Day — [9th allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole 4:17 pm, 19th January 2011

I am not giving way any more, as others want to speak.

The lad came to see me because he was not getting EMA, yet his friends who were getting it were also receiving a great deal of support from their parents. It is not a perfect system. Similarly, a lady came to see me who, despite having five jobs as a cleaner, does not receive EMA for her children. She could not understand why other people living in the same houses in the same streets who enjoy the same quality of life and drive the same kind of cars and go on the same kind of holidays are receiving it for their children. There certainly need to be some changes.

As I said at the outset, my concern is not about maintaining a national model, but about ensuring that support is in place that truly supports our young people. I would like to hear more information from Ministers about how big the pot is going to be. There is an argument not so much for a strict national model-I am certainly not in favour of that, as it puts everybody in a straitjacket-but at least for a sign that certain principles will automatically be taken into account as colleges and their administrative institutions make their decisions. That also means that the pot has to be big enough. It is no good removing the EMA and not replacing it with a pot big enough to support the young people who so desperately need it. I urge Ministers, when they sum up and respond to the debate, to give us more advice on that.

Similarly, I say to Opposition Members that, like Simon Hughes, I hope we can work together, because we should all have the same aim of supporting the young people who most need it. I wish we could take the politics out of this issue and get some agreement. We are in a difficult situation financially-everyone knows that tough decisions have to be taken-and the Government are doing some very good things in that regard. I would like us to lose the politics a little and work together to find a system. I would vote for any system that would guarantee young people, such as those it has been my privilege to teach, the support they desperately need to stay in further education.